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WRITING

FROM START TO FINISH


A SIX-STEP GUIDE

KATE GRENVILLE

Some images in the original version of this book are not available for inclusion in the eBook.
First published in 2001 Copyright Kate Grenville 2001 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission from the publisher. The Australian Copyright Act 1968 (the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or 10 per cent of this book, whichever is the greater, to be photographed by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under the Act. Allen & Unwin 83 Alexander Street Crows Nest NSW 2065 Australia Phone: (61 2) 8425 0100 Fax: (61 2) 9906 2218 Email: info@allenandunwin.com Web: www.allenandunwin.com National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry: Grenville, Kate, 1950. Writing from start to finish: a six-step guide. Includes index. ISBN 1 86508 514 6. 1. Creative writing. 2. EssayAuthorship. 3. English languageRhetoric. I. Title. 808.042 Text design by Simon Paterson Illustrations by Fiona Katauskas Set in 10/15 pt Stempel Schneidler by Bookhouse, Sydney Printed by Griffin Press, South Australia 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

CONTENTS
Introduction What makes writing hard? How this book helps Can anyone learn to write? How the six steps work Writing assignments Understanding assignments Two kinds of writing assignments v v v vi vii 1 2 3

Step One: Getting ideas


About getting ideas Getting ideas for imaginative writing Getting ideas for an essay

9 11 14 28 47 49 50 57 67 69 72 86 103 105 112 122

Step Two: Choosing


About choosing ideas Choosing ideas for imaginative writing Choosing ideas for an essay

Step Three: Outlining


About making an outline Making an outline for imaginative writing Making an outline for an essay

Step Four: Drafting


About writing a first draft First draft for imaginative writing First draft for an essay

Step Five: Revising


About revising Revising imaginative writing Revising an essay

135 137 140 153 165 167 169 178

Step Six: Editing


About editing Editing imaginative writing Editing an essay

Other useful stuff Applying the six steps to different kinds of writing Types of texts at a glance User-friendly grammar Ten-minute exam kit Bibliography Acknowledgements Index

189 189 194 196 206 212 213 214

Introduction
What makes writing hard?
Writing sounds simpleyou start with an attention-grabbing first sentence, then you move on to some really interesting stuff in the middle, and then you bring it all together at the end. The trouble is, how do you think up that attention-grabbing first sentence? Where do you go to find that really interesting stuff? What do you do if your mind is as blank as the paper youre staring at? Sometimes writing happens the way it does in the movies. You sit down, chew the end of the pen for a while, then you get inspired and something fantastic comes out. This is great when it happens, and if all your writings like that, well, hey, you can stop reading now. You dont need this book. This book is about what to do when youve chewed the pen down to the ink and you still havent got any ideas.

How this book helps


This book is different from many other how to write books because it reverses the usual order you do things in. Many books about writing suggest you think out in advance what youre going to write. After youve thought out your piece, you write it. This sounds logical and sensible. It works for some people all of the time. It works for some people some of the time. But it doesnt work at all, ever, for many people, myself included. Mainly, this is because of that little voice weve all got in our head that says, Thats no good, stupid!. The trick to writing is to find a

Most people dont find writing easy.

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INTRODUCTION

Writing evolves, it doesnt just arrive.

Write first, judge later.

way of making that little voice shut up long enough for you to get something down on paper. The way I suggest you approach writing is to start by letting your mind roam around the topic in a free-form way. You make notes and write little bits and pieces, exploring many different ways into the topic. When youve got a good collection of these bits, you pick over them for what you might be able to use, and you start to put them in some kind of order. As you do this, more ideas will come. Gradually, this evolves into your finished piece of writing. The advantage of doing it this way is that you never have to make ideas appear out of thin air. Even if your bits and pieces arent brilliant, they are somethingif only something to react against. It also means that the process of creating and the process of judging are separate. Once youve got something written, you can invite that nasty little voice back in to evaluate what youve got and make changes. Instead of being caught up inside the machinery of your own thinking, you can stand outside it, and see the process happening one step at a time.

Can anyone learn to write?


Experienced writers do a lot of these steps in their head, so fast they often arent even aware theyre doing them. It looks as if something intuitive and magic is happeningas if their brains are working differently. I dont think that is sobut I think theyre going through the steps so fast and so seamlessly, it looks like a leap rather than a plod. Its like drivingexperienced drivers shift gears without having to think about it. Learner drivers, though, have to think consciously about it and practise gear shifting until it becomes automatic. No ones born knowing how to writebut its a skill that most people can learn, and the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

HOW THE SIX STEPS WORK

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How the six steps work


This book is based on the idea that you can use the same process for any kind of writing. Short stories, essays, reportsthey all look very different, and theyre doing different jobs, but you can go about them all in the same way using these same six steps: 1. 2. 3. 4. Getting ideas (in no particular order). Choosing (selecting the ideas you think will be most useful). Outlining (putting these ideas into the best ordermaking a plan). Drafting (doing a first draft from beginning to end, without going back). 5. Revising (cutting, adding or moving parts of this draft where necessary). 6. Editing (proofreading for grammar, spelling and paragraphs). I know these six steps work because I follow them every time I sit down to write. In the pages ahead, youll find a chapter for each step, containing:
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Writing gets easier with practice.

Remember: Go Cook One Dreadful Raw Egg.

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7 information about the stephow to do it;


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7 an example of the stepover the course of the book, these


examples evolve into a completed short story and a completed essay;

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7 a doing it section where you can apply what youve learned in


the chapter. You dont have to read through this book from beginning to end.

You can just look at the chapters you need at the moment. If you want to learn how to write an essay, for example, you can read the about section, then skip ahead to the example and doing it sections for essay writing. Look for these icons in the bottom corner of the page.
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INTRODUCTION

At the end of the book there are a few other sections that should be useful:

7 a summary of the different types of texts and their


requirements;

7 a user-friendly guide to some of the most common grammar


problems;

7 a quick reference to the six steps for exam revision.

Writing assignments
There seem to be so many different kinds of writing: novels, poems, short stories, scripts, letters, essays, reports, reviews, instructions . . . all quite different. But theyre all writing. They all have the basic aim of getting ideas from one brain into another. Any piece of writing will be trying to do at least one of the following things:

7 Entertainit doesnt necessarily make the readers laugh, but


it at least engages their feelings in some way.

7 Informit tells the reader about something. 7 Persuadeit tries to convince the reader of something.
In the real world these purposes overlap. But a good place to start writing is to ask: What is the basic thing I want this piece of writing to do?

Trying to put writing in categories can make you crazy, but it gets you thinking about what youre trying to do.

Writing to entertain
Think what its like to be a readeryou can be entertained (emotionally gripped) by something very serious, even sad, as well as by something funny. An exciting plot can involve your emotions, too, by creating feelings of suspense. Writing that involves emotions can also be reflective and contemplative. Writing to entertain generally takes the form of so-called imaginative writing or creative writing (of course, all writing requires some imagination and creativity). Examples of imaginative writing are novels, stories, poems, song lyrics, plays and screenplays. Sometimes imaginative writing disguises itself as a true story for added effect. For example, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend disguises itself as a journal, while Dear Venny, Dear Saffron

For imaginative writing you can make things up.

WRITING ASSIGNMENTS

by Gary Crew and Libby Hathorn disguises itself as letters. As readers, though, we know that theyre not really journals or lettersthese are just devices the writer has used to make the writing more entertaining.

Writing to inform
These kinds of writing can also be entertaining in the sense that theyre a good read. But entertaining the reader isnt their main purposethats just a bonus. Examples of writing to inform are newspaper articles, scientific or business reports, instructions or procedures, and essays for school and university.

Writing to persuade
This includes advertisements, some newspaper and magazine articles, and some types of essay. This type of writing might include your opinion, but as part of a logical case backed up with evidence, rather than just as an expression of your feelings. I mentioned above that imaginative writing occasionally pretends to be a true story, but if youre writing to inform or persuade, you shouldnt make things up.

If youre writing to inform or persuade, dont make things up!

Understanding assignments
Reading teachers minds: What do they really want? Sometimes youre free to write whatever you like, but at school or university youll generally be given a specific writing assignment. This could be an imaginative writing assignment, an essay, or some other kind of writing task. Decoding the words of the assignment so that you give your teacher or lecturer exactly what he or she wants is part of your job as a writer. There are two clues embedded in every assignment that will help you crack the code:

7 the task word; and 7 the limiting word.

TWO KINDS OF WRITING ASSIGNMENTS

Task words
The task word is usually the verb in the assignmentthe word that tells you what to do. It might be something like: discuss; describe; write about; or compare. For example: Discuss the poem Mending Wall by Robert Frost. Or: Write about your childhood.

Limiting words
The limiting word (or words) narrows the assignment in some way. For example: Discuss the use of imagery in the poem Mending Wall by Robert Frost. Or: Write about the most embarrassing incident of your childhood. Sometimes, writing assignments have a sneaky hidden agenda. They seem to be asking for an imaginative response, but theyre also looking for how much you know about a particular subject. For example: Write a letter to the editor of a publishing company, recommending that the company publish the work of Robert Frost. The hidden agenda is to show how much you know, in as much detail as possible, about Robert Frosts poems. The letter format is just fancy packaging for good old information and argument.

Two kinds of writing assignments


In this book, well look in detail at two of the most common kinds of writing assignment:
7 imaginative writing assignments;

7 essay assignments.

WRITING ASSIGNMENTS

Imaginative writing assignments


For information about other kinds of writing assignments, see page 189. Assignments for imaginative writing commonly give you something that acts as a trigger for your imagination. For example:

7 Look at this photograph and write a piece responding to it. 7 Write a piece that begins with a young child waking, sitting
up in bed saying, Its my birthday! and promptly bursting into tears.

7 Write a piece based on the theme State of the Art.


Others give you part of the story ready-madethe title, the opening or the end.

7 Use this as the title of a piece of writing: The Very Worst. 7 Use this as the first sentence of a piece of writing: The car
coughed, sputtered, choked and died.

7 Use this as the final sentence of a piece of writing: High up


in the sky, a jet drew a long, soft line of vapour through the unclouded blue. Whatever form the assignment takes, it is asking you to write a piece that will entertain your readersthat is, engage their feelings.

Essay assignments
Essays generally ask you to do one of four things: These assignments invite you to show what you know about a subject.

7 They might ask for straight information, arranged in some


logical order: an explanatory essay or report. For example: What are the themes of Mending Wall by Robert Frost?

7 They might ask you to discuss different points of view


about a subject: to present one side, then the other and finally come down on one side. For example: Robert Frosts poem Mending Wall is his best poem. Discuss.

TWO KINDS OF WRITING ASSIGNMENTS

7 They might ask you to argue for a particular point of


viewto make a case for one side of an argument. For example: Robert Frosts poem Mending Wall is his best poem. Do you agree or disagree? Give reasons for your answer.

7 Or they might ask you to compare or contrast several


different things. For example: Robert Frosts poem Mending Wall expresses the same themes as some of his other poems, but in a different way. Discuss.

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Writing assignments
To show the process of writing from start to finish, Im going to set myself two writing assignments and work through them using the six steps.

Imaginative writing assignment


Ive given myself this assignment: Write a piece with the title Steep Learning Curve. The task words here are write a piece. This is a very open-ended phrase giving me a clue that I can approach the assignment in whatever way I chooseit can be a poem or a play or a story. The limiting words are with the title Steep Learning Curve. This means that what I write about has to have something to do with a steep learning curve, but the exact kind of learning curve is up to me. These clues suggest that the purpose of this piece will be to entertain. Ill work towards a piece of imaginative writing in the form of a short story.

These examples will develop step-by-step through the book.

Essay assignment
This is the assignment Ive set myself: Every story is a journey towards self-discovery. Using a novel youve read this year as an example, show why you agree or disagree with this statement. The task words here are show why you agree or disagree. This clue tells me I should try to persuade the reader that Im right in agreeingor disagreeing with the statement. The limiting words are using a novel youve read this year as an example. This is a clue to write about just one book, and to use examples from it to back up what Im saying. In doing this, Ill also be informing the reader of what the book is about. Ill work towards an essay of the kind required at school and university.

DOING IT: WRITING ASSIGNMENTS

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Writing assignments
1
Why am I writing this piece?
Ask yourself:
Hint . . . think about the purpose of the piece.

7 Am I being asked to write a piece that will entertain my reader


(that is, keep them interested by getting their feelings involved, probably by making things up)?

7 Am I being asked to write a piece that will inform my reader (that is,
tell them facts about something in the real world)?

7 Am I being asked to write a piece that will persuade my reader (that


is, put forward an argument and convince them its the correct one)?

Whats the task of this assignment? 7 What is the task word in this assignment? (Am I being asked to
discuss, describe or compare, or something else?)
Hint . . . look at the verb in the assignment.

7 What is the limiting word or phrase? Is the assignment asking me


to limit my piece to just one part of a larger subject?

7 Is there a hidden agenda in this assignment? (Is it presented as an


imaginative task, but also asks for information?)

What kind of writing should I do here? 7 Are there clues that tell me what form the writing should take (to
write the piece as an essay, as a short story, as a newspaper report)?

Hint . . . some assignments let you choose, others dont.

Recap
Now that you know what the assignment is asking you to do, you need ideas. How do you get those ideas? The next chapter is about several tried-and-true ways.

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STEP ONE

Getting ideas

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Whats in

STEP ONE
11 12 14 14 14 15 16 17 22 28 28 28 29 32 33 39

About getting ideas


What stops ideas?

Getting ideas for imaginative writing


Making a list Making a cluster diagram Researching Freewriting Example: Getting ideas for imaginative writing Doing it: Getting ideas for imaginative writing

Getting ideas for an essay


Making a list Making a cluster diagram Researching Freewriting Example: Getting ideas for an essay Doing it: Getting ideas for an essay

ABOUT GETTING IDEAS

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About getting ideas


Ideas come from lots of places, but the one place they never, ever come from is a sheet of blank paper. Blank paper will never lead to anything better than more blank paper. Thats why, if I had any rules for writing (which I dont), my first and last rule would be: Anything is better than a blank page. Getting ideas isnt usually a matter of having one giant brainstorm. More often, its a matter of gradually accumulating a little idea here, another little idea there. Eventually they all add up. Here are four foolproof ways to get some words down on that blank page: Even a dumb idea can lead to a better idea.

7 making a list; 7 making a cluster diagram; 7 researching or independent investigation; 7 freewriting.


Making a list (or brainstorming or think-tanking) is the best way I know to get started with a piece of writing. Your mind can flit around the topic quickly. You dont have to write a list in sentences, so you dont get bogged down trying to think of the right words. You can just write anything that comes to mind. Making a cluster diagram is really just another kind of list, but one that develops into little clusters of like-minded ideas. If yours is one of those brains that works best visually, a cluster diagram might be a user-friendly way to start writing. Researching or independent investigation means finding some information to use in your writing. The obvious place to do research is in books, but you can also do it on the Net, from videos and by gathering your own information first-hand (doing interviews, conducting experiments, etc.). Freewriting (or speedwriting or free-associating) just means non-stop talking onto the page. Because you cant stop to think, your unconscious gets to have a go. They sound simple and they arebut they work!

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STEP ONE: GETTING IDEAS

What stops ideas?


The Voice of Doom
The hardest thing about getting ideas is that little voice in your head that tells you all your ideas are no good. We all have that voice. Ive been a professional writer for twenty years and I still get it every time I sit down to write. I dont think you can make that voice go away. If you wait for it to go awayif you wait until you feel happy with your ideas youll wait a lifetime and never get anything done. The thing to do is to go on in spite of it. Speak firmly to it. Okay, you can say: Its no good. I wont argue about that. But Ill just keep going anyway. Laugh all you want.

The Voice of Doom is a bullydont let it win!

Inspiration
You cant force ideas. The best ones often come when youre not trying to control your brain too much. They often feel as if they have come out of nowhere. They havent really come from nowhere, thoughtheyve come out of your brainbut out of the unconscious part. The unconscious is like the hidden two-thirds of an icebergit supports everything else, but you cant see it. What happens when you get an inspiration is just that the conscious, thinking part of your brain has switched off for a minute, and the unconscious has switched on. The unconscious is a writers best friend. The unconscious goes on strike if you try to tell it what to do or if you criticise it. This means to get ideas you have to let your mind roam wherever it wants to. Once your unconsciousness has given you some ideas, your conscious mind can take over again.

Inspiration works the same way for maths and science as it does for writing.

Planning too soon can shut the door on new ideas.

Premature planning
Its true that when you start to write a piece, you should have a plan. But getting ideas isnt the same as writing a piece. Theres a time

ABOUT GETTING IDEAS

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to think and plan (in this book, that time is during Step Three), and a time to let your mind wander freely, gathering all kinds of ideas.

Writers block
Theres a lot of melodrama around the idea of writers block, but its not a terminal illness. It just means that youve come to the end of one path of ideas. Thats okayyou go off on another one. Instead of trying to force a path through the wall, you go around it. One thing that helps is to remind yourself that no one else is going to read any of this. Step One is your own private notes to yourselflike an artists rough sketches. It also helps to remind yourself that everything goes through a stage where it looks hopeless. Making toffee, learning to rollerblade, painting your bedroomtheres always a moment when that little voice says, This is never going to work. But just on the other side of that moment is the breakthrough. It also helps to remember that you have had ideas in the past. This suggests you might have more in the future. Think about a good idea youve had in the pastnot necessarily about writing. How did you get the idea for that Mothers Day present your mum liked so much? How did the idea for the Self-Adjusting Shoelace Doer-Upper come to you? Is there a state of mind, or a set of circumstances that makes it easier for you to think of good ideas? Thinking that you have to write a masterpiece is a sure way to get writers block. None of the things well do in Step One will look like a masterpiece. Dont let that worry you. This isnt the step where we write the masterpiece. This is the step where we think up a whole lot of ideas. Writing the masterpiece comes later.

Writers block is a normal part of writing.

Beware of the pressure to write a masterpiece!

The next section is about getting ideas for imaginative writing. If youre looking for help with an essay, skip ahead to page 28.

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STEP ONE: GETTING IDEAS

Getting ideas for imaginative writing


The aim of a piece of imaginative writing is to entertain the reader, so that means Ill be trying to think of entertaining ideas. Thats a big ask. Very few people can think of entertaining ideas straight off. SoIll work up to it. Ill start by asking my brain to think up any old ideas. One idea leads to another and sooner or later theyll get more entertaining. As I mentioned on page 11, there are at least four good ways to come up with any old ideas.

Writing isnt easyso start with something simple.

Making a list
A list is the easiest, least threatening way to start writing. Start by working out what is the single most important word or phrase in the assignment. This is the key word. Write that at the top of a blank page and list anything that comes into your head about it.

Making a cluster diagram


Another way of making a list is to do it in the form of a cluster diagram. Instead of having the assignment at the top of the page, you write the key word from the assignment in the middle of the page. You put down ideas as they come to you, and if they connect to an idea youve already put down, you group them together. The aim is to form clusters of linked ideas. The act of clustering ideas often seems to make it easier for them to flow. Also, your ideas can jump from cluster to cluster, adding a bit here, a bit there.

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Researching
Another name for research is independent investigation because what it means is going and finding out something about the subject yourself. There are two reasons to do research for a piece of creative writing:

7 as a way of finding ideas; 7 as a way of finding interesting details to develop ideas


you already have. A lot of imaginative writing gets done without any research at all. But research can make a dull story come to lifeit can add vivid details and make it more believable.

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STEP ONE: GETTING IDEAS

Carry a notebook with you and write things down straight away. A few words will do.

Research for imaginative writing can be about a location (John Marsden, for example, drew on real places and stories for Tomorrow, When the War Began). It can be about a historical period (Colleen McCullough does a lot of historical research for her books about ancient Rome). Or it can delve into technical information (such as in Michael Crichtons Jurassic Park). Research might also take the form of direct personal investigationasking your grandmother what life was like when she was a child, for example, or gathering information about your family tree. Writers often keep a notebook for their researchif you see an odd-shaped cloud or overhear something peculiar on the bus, you put in it your notebook. Later, when youre writing, you can go through the notebook and see if that cloud or that overheard comment can go in your story. In all these cases, the writer is making use of the fact that truth is often stranger than fiction (and more interesting, too).

Freewriting
Freewriting is just thinking on paper. Its a good way to let the unconscious give you ideas because it lets you access your memory, your experiences, your knowledge, your fantasies . . . things you didnt even know you had stored away in your head. The idea is to switch the brain off while keeping the pen moving across the paper. Its important not to plan what youre writing, or the ideas will stop flowing. Its also important not to stop and think. For freewriting the whole idea is not to think. I know that its hard to stop the brain thinking and planning, because weve all been taught to do that. However, switching the thinking-and-planning brain off for a while is also something you can learn, and like other things it gets easier with practice. (And dont worry, youll switch it on again in Step Two.)
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Getting ideas for imaginative writing


Making a list
To remind you, the imaginative writing assignment Ive given myself is: Write a piece with the title Steep Learning Curve. The most important word here seems to be learning, so Ill begin with that and start listing everything that comes into my mind about learning any kind of learning. Heres what comes out.

LEARNING

Cant think of anything else

Brains stopped!

Learning to read Learning to tell the time Learning to swim *** The Olympic Pool Blue water Little white hexagonal tiles Dad holding me under the chest Dont let go, dont let go Funny echoing noises Feeling of water up nose ***

Learning tennis Hitting balls over fence Huge swing, then miss Jeff Jackson laughing at me *** Learning French Learning lists of words by heart Embarrassing trying to say the words out loud Other kids seemed to be getting it okay Me the only dummie

Another dead end

Theres nothing brilliant here, but Ive got examples of three different kinds of learning: learning to swim, learning tennis, and learning French. That means Ive got three ideas about the assignment now, where two minutes ago I had a blank sheet of paper.

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STEP ONE: GETTING IDEAS

Making a cluster diagram


I start with the key word in the middle of a page: LEARNING To get myself going I use a few ideas from my first list. As I do this, new ideas start coming.

Teachers big clear writing Flashcards in kindy Kooka on the oven door Learning to read LEARNING Learning French Learning to drive Miss M trying to look French Quiet back lane suddenly full of cars Jerky starts Driving test Ran over dog Singing Frre Jacques Failing tests Panicked Cheating from Caroline B Learning to swim

Messy, isnt it? Making a cluster diagram is one time when its good to be messy. It means the ideas are flowing.

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Researching
First, Ill use research to find some ideas. In a psychology book I look through the index for the word learning and come to an entry called Conditioned learning. I skim through until this bit catches my eye:

A rat will not normally respond to the turning-on of a light. It does, however, respond to an electric shock applied to its feet. It responds in a great many ways: by squealing, jumping, gnawing, urinating, defecating, changing respiration rate and heart rate and so on. If a light is turned on just before the application of a shock to the rat, the light alone, after a number of pairings, will elicit some of the responses.

Because I was thinking about French classes while I was writing my list back on page 17, Ive got a fellow feeling for those rats. No one gave us electric shocks in French classes, but sometimes it felt like that. Ill make a note about it:

Learning French as bad as electric shocks. Learned to dread Wednesdays and FridaysFrench days. Tried to be invisible, avoid teachers eye.

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STEP ONE: GETTING IDEAS

Second, Ill use research to develop some ideas I already have. I could research learning to swim (perhaps by going to a swimming pool and watching kids learning to swim). I could research learning tennis (perhaps by watching some kids learning tennis). As it happens, my old French textbook is close at hand, so Ill use that to research learning French. Was it really as hard to learn as it had seemed back when I was thirteen? When I get to this bit, I decide it was:

All French nouns (persons or things) are considered either masculine or feminine, the noun markers le and la (often referred to as definite articles) indicating the category in a distinction usually known as gender, while the plural of both le and la is les.

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Freewriting
I write the words Steep Learning Curve at the top of a sheet of paper, set a timer for three minutes, and start writing. Heres what comes out:

Learninghard and embarrassing, you cant do it, you feel stupid. Worse with people who already know how to do it. Now what? I cant think of anything else to write. I dont think this is working French was the worst, it didnt make sense. Maison meant house, I could learn that, a bit like mansion. But what about the le and la business? How were you supposed to remember thattwo different words for the? Why? Why some feminine and some masculine? I asked Miss MWhy is leg feminine and foot masculine. She gave me that what a dummie look. The whole class staring at me. Now Ive run out of things to I cheated. Copied from Caroline B next to me. She tried to stop mesloped her page away and hid it behind her hand. Maybe I really wanted to be found cheating, so someone would rescue me.

Suddenly thought of something else.

Remembered something I hadnt thought of for years.

I didnt consciously decide to freewrite about Frenchbut it was in my mind from doing the research, so thats what came out.

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STEP ONE: GETTING IDEAS

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Getting ideas for imaginative writing


MAKING A LIST Write the assignment at the top of a page 7 If youve been given an imaginative writing topic by a teacher, you can
use that. Otherwise, just to practise, use one of those on page 4.

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Hint . . . look for a task word (see page 3).

Work out what the assignment wants you to do


Ask yourself:

7 Whats the exact task Im being asked to do?

3
Hint . . . look for a limiting word (see page 3).

Start making a list 7 Find what you think is the most important word or phrase in the
assignment and make it the first item in your list.

7 Scribble down anything that comes into your head about that word
or phrase.

7 Use a new line for each thought. 7 Write just a word or two for each thought.

Cant do it?
Ask yourself:

Relax . . . Starting a piece of writing is hard for everyone.

7 Am I rejecting the ideas before I even write them down?


(Solution: dont think, just write.)

7 Am I letting the Voice of Doom bully me into stopping?


(Solution: tell it you know perfectly well these ideas are rubbish, thanks all the same.)

7 Am I worrying that these ideas wont work for my piece?


(Solution: dont think about writing a piece, just think about writing a list.)

7 Am I worrying that Im spelling the words wrongly?


(Solution: spell them any way you like at this stage.)

7 Am I weird because Im finding this hard?


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(Solution: no, youre like everyone else on the planet.)

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When your list fills the page, you can stop and read it over
If this list doesnt look like enough, dont panic. There are lots of other ways to get ideaskeep reading for some more.

M A K I N G A C L U S T E R D I AG R A M

Find the key word or words 7 Make a box in the middle of the page and write the key word (the
most important word) of the assignment in it.

7 Take your time making it look nice, because while youre busy doing
that, part of your brain is actually thinking about the assignment.

Draw a line out from the box


Ask yourself:

7 What does this make me think of?

Hint . . . just put down the first thing that comes into your head.

Write that thought down 7 Wrap it in a little idea bubble. 7 Attach it to the box the key word is in.

Keep asking questions about the key word


Ask yourself:

7 Does it make me remember something that once happened to me? 7 Does it make me think of another word? 7 Does it make me think of its opposite? 7 Does it make me think of something that seems to have nothing to
do with the topic?

7 Does it make me think of a particular person, or place, or incident?

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STEP ONE: GETTING IDEAS

5
Hint . . . no matter what you think of it, write it down anyway.

Ask questions about the idea bubbles, too


Ask yourself:

7 Does this make me remember something else? 7 Does this make me wonder about something, or start to imagine or
make up something?

6
Hint . . . a messy cluster diagram is a good cluster diagram.

Getting stuck?
Ask yourself:

7 Am I pre-judging my ideas?
(Solution: dont judge them till later.)

7 Am I worrying that Im going off into irrelevant ideas?


(Solution: worry later about whether theyre relevant.)

7 Am I getting bogged down repeating myself?


(Solution: go back to the key word, or to one of the bubbles, and start again.)

7 Is my diagram all lopsided?


(Solution: relaxlopsided is fine for a cluster diagram.)

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RESEARCHING

Choose something from your list to find more information about


Ask yourself:

7 Is there a person, a place or an event that I can find out more about? 7 Is there a general idea or concept that I can fill in with specific details?

Start looking for information


Ask yourself:

7 Is there a reference book I can look up (a dictionary, encyclopedia,


atlas)?

7 Is there a book about the subject (either non-fiction or fiction)? 7 Can I find sites about this on the Net? 7 Is there a film or video about this?

Hint . . . researchings like fishingthe bigger your net, the more fish youll catch.

Decide whether to research personally


Ask yourself:

7 Is there someone I can interview about this (either an individual or a


group)?

7 Can I investigate it by observing it myself (going and having a good


look at what Im researching)?

7 Can I investigate it by experiencing it directly (doing it myself)?

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STEP ONE: GETTING IDEAS

4
Hint . . . if you find it interesting, chances are that your readers will, too.

How to tell when youve found something useful


Ask yourself:

7 Did I think Wow, thats really funny/weird/revolting/incredible? 7 Did I find something sticking in my mind, even something I dont think
is relevant?

7 Did I find some specific examples of something Ive been thinking about
in general terms? (For example, if you were thinking about flowers and now youve got daisies, roses, flannel flowers, lilies)

7 Did I find details about a person or a place? 7 Did I hear a way of speaking or some other sound? 7 Can I understand how something feels from the inside now that Ive
tried doing it?

Hint . . . dont let the Voice of Doom talk you out of it.

Make a quick note of what you find and where its located
For more on note-taking, see page 30.

What if you cant find anything? 7 Leave it and go on to the next way of gathering ideas. Later, when the
piece is further advanced, you might see what you need to research.

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FREEWRITING

Get some kind of timer and set it for five minutes 7 This is so you dont have to keep checking how many minutes youve
done.

Write the main words of the topic at the top of the page 7 Keep writing without stopping. 7 If you cant think of anything else to write and you want to stop, dont.

Hint . . . keep the pen moving across the paper, no matter what comes out.

What if I really cant keep going?


Ask yourself:

7 Am I trying to plan in advance what Ill say?


(Solution: let each word suggest the next onejust go forward one word at a time.) Try I cant think of anything to write. This is the silliest thing Ive ever done, etc. Eventually your brain will come up with something else.

7 Am I worried about writing something silly?


(Solution: write something really silly. Then you can stop worrying about it.)

7 Do I keep wanting to stop and read what Ive written?


(Solution: promise yourself you can do that, but not till the timer goes off.)

7 Am I going round in circles saying the same thing over and over?

(Solution: take a fresh page and give yourself a run-up with one of these writing starters: One day, I . . . The thing about [key word] is . . . Relax . . . One incident I remember about [key word] is . . . the Great The best/worst [key word] memory I have is . . .) Writing isnt

Think automatic writing


Its a Zen kind of thingjust let whatever comes, come.

supposed to happen till Step Six.

The next section is about getting ideas for an essay. If you want to go on with imaginative writing, skip ahead to Step Two (page 47).
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STEP ONE: GETTING IDEAS

Getting ideas for an essay


For an essay, your aim is to persuade or inform your readers about the topic, so you want to end up with ideas that will persuade or inform. Where do you start? Should you find out about the topic by doing research first? But how do you know what you need to research? Like so much of writing, its a chicken-andegg sort of thing. The thing is not to worry about whether youve got a chicken or an egg. You need both and it doesnt matter which you start with. The place to start is to put down everything you already know or think about the topic. Once you get that in a line, youll see where to go next. Dont worry yet about your theme or your structure. Youre not writing an essay yetyoure just exploring. The more you explore, the more ideas youll get, and the more ideas you have, the better your essay will be.

It doesnt matter where you start, as long as you get something on paper.

Making a list
Writing an essay takes several different kinds of skills, but the first one is easy. We can all write a list. Start the list by writing down the most important word or phrase (the key word) from the assignment, then putting down every thought that comes to you about it.

Making a cluster diagram


A cluster diagram is also known as brainstorming or an idea tree.
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A cluster diagram is really just another kind of list, but instead of listing straight down the page, you list in clusters around a key word. Think of the spokes of a wheel radiating out from the hub. Something about the physical layout of a cluster diagram often makes it easier for ideas to start flowing. You can jump around from cluster to cluster, adding a thought here and a thought there.

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Researching
When you write an essay, youre usually expected to find out what other people have already thought about the subject. Your own ideas are important too, but they should be built on a foundation of whats gone before. You dont have to reinvent the wheel. Since most essays rely on this kind of foundation, you need to know how to do it properly. Ill take a moment here to talk about how to research (otherwise known as independent investigation). Research is about getting some hard information on your subject: actual facts, actual figures. The sad thing about research is that usually only a small percentage of it ends up in your final draft. But like the hidden nine-tenths of an iceberg, its got to be there to hold up the bit you can see. You often research several times during the writing process. The first time you mightnt know exactly what youll be writing about, so research will be fairly broad-based. As the essay starts to take shape, youll have narrowed the topic down. At that stage you might research again to find specific details.

Researchyou need it, even if it ends up between the lines, not on them.

How do you research?


First you have to find your source of information. You might look at books, journals, videos, newspapers, on the Internet, on CD-ROM. You go to reference books like dictionaries and encyclopedias. You might also do your own research: interviewing people, conducting an experiment, doing a survey. In the case of my topic, reading the novels themselves is research (the novels are primary sources), and so is finding anything that critics or reviewers might have said about them (these are secondary sources).

Research is only as trustworthy as its source.

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STEP ONE: GETTING IDEAS

A word about acknowledgement


Research is only useful if you can say where you found it. Because youre piggy-backing on other peoples work, you have to let your reader know thatto give credit where credit is due. You can do this either in the text of the essay, in footnotes or in a list of sources at the end. Once youve found your source, you cant just lift slabs of it and plonk them into your essay. You have to transform the information by putting it into your own words and shaping it for your own purposes. An essential first step in this process is taking notes. If you can summarise a piece of information in a short note, it means youve understood it and made it your own. Later, when you write it out in a sentence, it will be your own sentence, organised for your own purposes.

More information on how to acknowledge other peoples work can be found on page 184.

How to take notes 7 Before you start taking notes, put a heading that tells you
exactly what the source is. This means you can find it again quickly if you need to and you can acknowledge it. In the case of a book, you should note the name of the author, the title of the book, the date and place of publication, and the page or chapter number. The call number (the library number on the spine) is also useful. (Its tempting to skip this step, and I often have. The price is high, thoughfrustrating hours spent flipping through half-a-dozen books looking for one particular paragraph so you can acknowledge the source of your information or find some more detail.)

Note-taking is about thinking, not just copying.

7 Use the table of contents and the index to go straight to the


relevant parts.

7 Skim-read to save time once youve got to the relevant parts. 7 Write down the main words of the idea with just enough
connecting words for your note to make sense.

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7 Put only one point per line. 7 Sometimes turning the information into a diagram is the best
way to make notes.

7 Put your notes under headings so you can see the


information in bundles. Often, the research is already organised under headings: you can just copy those.

7 If you cant see how to reduce a big lump of research to a


few snappy lines, try the MDE trick: find its Main idea, then its Details, then any Examples.

7 Develop a shorthand that works for youshorten words (for


example, char. for character), use graphics (for example, sideways arrows to show cause and effect, up and down arrows to show things increasing or decreasing).

The cheats note-taking


People often take notes by highlighting or underlining the relevant parts of a book or article. This is certainly easier than making your own notes, but its not nearly as useful. The moment when you work out how to summarise an idea in your own words is the moment when that idea becomes yours. Just running a highlighter across someone elses words doesnt do thatthe idea stays in their words, in their brain. It hasnt been digested by you.

A bad idea: it ruins the book for the next person.

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STEP ONE: GETTING IDEAS

Freewriting
Freewriting lets you find thoughts you never knew you had. Freewriting is just a fancy word for talking onto the pagea way of thinking aloud about the topic in an unstructured way. Its like the free association exercises that psychologists use: its just nonstop writing. The reason freewriting works is that you can let your brain off the leash for a while and send it out to find ideas. Ideas are shy little things and they wont come if you try to bully them, or if you keep criticising them. The important thing with freewriting is not to stop and think. Just keep the ideas flowing out the end of your pen onto the page. Its true that your essay needs to be thought-out and planned, and it will be. But this isnt the essaythis is just another way of getting ideas for the essay. Theres a time to question whether these ideas are useful. But that time isnt now. Now is the time to invite in any ideas that may happen by.

Creativity means being prepared to take a risk.

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Getting ideas for an essay


Making a list
The assignment Ive given myself is: Every story is a journey towards self-discovery. Using a novel youve read this year as an example, show why you agree or disagree with this statement. There seem to be several key words in this assignment: one is a novel youve read this year and the other is self-discovery. Ill take them one at a time. Ill start by listing what I can think of about novels Ive read this year, then list what I can think of about self-discovery. A novel Ive read this year What have I read? Tomorrow, When the War Began Looking for Alibrandi Huckleberry Finn The Day of the Triffids

Self-discovery What exactly is self-discovery? How define? Discovering you can do something? Learning how to do something? Learning from mistakes? Learning about your own character?

While I was doing it, this list seemed like rubbish. But now that I look at what Ive written, I can see that it tells me two things I could do next:

7 I could find out more about what self-discovery means. 7 I could go back to the novels Ive listed and see if theres selfdiscovery in any of them. A big, vague, woolly problem has turned into two quite specific smaller problems, and I can see where to go next.

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STEP ONE: GETTING IDEAS

Making a cluster diagram


In the middle I put the key word of my assignment. To get myself going, Ill start with a few ideas from my list. As I do this, new ideas start coming.

Implies you didnt know before Needs things to go wrong Needs a crisis? Things you think you cant do Learning about yourself SELF-DISCOVERY Discover good things Might not want to know Discover bad things Selfish Cowardly Hurt others Kind, wise, brave... mature

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Researching
Im going to investigate this topic by looking at four sources of information. Research source 1: Macquarie Dictionary (1st edn), page 523 Self-discovery isnt in this dictionary, but discovery and discover are:

Discover: To get knowledge of, learn of, or find out; gain sight or knowledge of something previously unseen or unknown.

Research source 2: Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden From the list of novels Ive read this year, I choose Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden. Its a book that shows a group of characters under pressure, and I think some of them probably go through selfdiscovery. I read the book again with self-discovery in mind and make notes about the self-discovery of the main character, Ellie. I note the page numbers so that I can easily find them againthat way, I can actually use quotes from the book when I write the essay.

page 69Ellie explodes mowerlearns about defending herself 82steps into lightlearns she can be brave 95thinks about having killed 3 people 161thinks shes a monster 161doesnt want to be town slut 164surprised that she recovers from guilt of killing 184confusedlikes both Homer and Lee 194realises with Homer the attraction is only physical
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STEP ONE: GETTING IDEAS

Research source 3: Information about the novel I look up a library catalogue under adolescent fiction and find a book that has a chapter about John Marsdens work: The Adolescent Novel: Australian Perspectives by Maureen Nimon and John Foster, Centre for Information Studies, Wagga Wagga, 1997. Theres a sentence or two that seem relevant to my topic.

. . . by the end of the second volume, Robyn becomes aware of a fact that the reader would have noticed already: that she and her friends have actually gained something by their involvement in the war . . . the characters realise how they have matured and developed . . . (page 177)

Rather than take notes here, I photocopy the extract because I might want to use it word-for-word as a quote in my essay.

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Research source 4: Background information about the book I go to John Marsdens website: www.ozemail.com.au/~andrewf/john.html

A Word from John Marsden Lots of people have asked where the ideas for the series originated. Of course with any book there are many elements. For me, my fathers stories about World War II were pretty powerful. He fought in the Middle East, Borneo and New Guinea, and was shot in the leg. I was also impressed by the attacks on Australia by the Japanese Navy and Air Force. Most people have forgotten already but Darwin was heavily bombed for a long period in 1942 and Japanese submarines, manned by brave sailors, got into Sydney Harbour, causing devastation and substantial loss of life. It seems to me that in the nineties Australians have become a bit too complacent, and no-one is seriously concerned about our security. Another spur for writing the books was watching an Anzac Day Parade and wondering how todays teenagers would react if they were placed in the same position as their grandparents and great-grandparents in the two world wars. So many people see todays teenagers as drug-and-alcohol crazed graffiti vandals, but I was fairly sure that given a challenge the teenagers of the nineties would show as much courage and maturity as their predecessors.

Again, I might use parts of this as a quote in my essay, so Ive printed the page out rather than making notes.

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STEP ONE: GETTING IDEAS

Freewriting
I start by quoting the topic, to give myself a run-up. Then I just keep burbling on.

nearly stopped, made myself keep writing

just keep that pen moving

slowed down, nearly gave up

Every story is a journey towards self-discoveryis this true? Every story seems like a big claimdoes Red Riding Hood come to self-discovery? Or Cinderella? Not sure. Dont know...yes, in Tomorrow, When the War Began. Ellie discovers shes tough. So tough she kills people. What else, what else, what else? Also discovers feelings she didnt know she hadfor Lee & Homer. Discovers shes confused about her feelingsshes keen on both Lee & Homer & doesnt want them to know. What else? Something about the way she feels about her parents. The roles are reversed, she has to look after them now. Feels responsible for them. Maybe thats another sort of self-discoverysense of obligation. Obligation not coming from what her parents tell her to do but from within herself. First chapterall the kids have to talk their parents into letting them go camping. Whereas later on they have to make their own decisions about whats right & wrong. Is that all? That seems to be all. I cant think of anything. What about the other characters in the book as well as the narrator? Does Homer go through self-discovery? Or did he always know he was a leader typeits just that no one else knew it. Not sure about the other characters. Stick to Ellie.

From having no ideas, Ive now got pages of them. Nothing earth-shattering maybe, but better than a blank page.

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Getting ideas for an essay


MAKING A LIST

Write the assignment at the top of a page 7 If youve got an essay assignment you can use that. Or you can use
my assignment. Or, you can adapt some of the assignments on pages 45 by inserting the title of a book or poem youve studied.

Work out what the assignment wants you to do


Ask yourself:

7 Whats the basic subject area of this assignment? 7 Whats the exact task Im being asked to do?

Hint . . . look for the key word/s in the assignment.

Start making a list 7 Write the key word as the first item on the list. 7 List anything that comes into your head about that word. 7 Use a new line for each idea. 7 Write just a word or two for each idea. 7 If there is more than one key word, list all you can about the first,
then repeat the process for the second.

Hint . . . look for the task word/s and the limiting word/s.

Cant do it?
Ask yourself:

7 Am I rejecting the ideas before I even write them down?


(Solution: dont think, just write.)

7 Am I letting the Voice of Doom bully me into stopping?


(Solution: dont try to argue with itgo on writing anyway.)

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7 Am I worrying that these ideas wont work for my piece?


(Solution: dont think about writing an essay, just think about writing a list.)

7 Am I worrying that my ideas arent on the topic?


(Solution: worry later about that. The essay has to be on the topic, but this list doesnt.)

7 Am I worrying that Im spelling the words wrongly or not using the


right ones? (Solution: use any words you like and spell them any way you like at this stage.)

Relax . . . starting a piece of writing is hard for everyone.

7 Am I weird because Im finding this hard?


(Solution: no, youre like everyone else on the planet.)

When your list fills the page, you can stop and read it over
If this list doesnt look like enough, dont panic. There are lots of other ways to get ideas.

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M A K I N G A C L U S T E R D I AG R A M

Make a box in the middle of the page and write the key word of the assignment in it 7 Take your time making it look nice because while youre busy doing
that, part of your brain is actually thinking about the assignment.

Draw a line out from the box


Ask yourself:

7 What does this make me think of?

Write that thought down 7 Wrap it in a little idea bubble. 7 Attach it to the box the key word is in.

Hint . . . just put down the first thing that comes into your head.

Keep asking questions about the key word 7 Does it make me remember something Ive read or learned about this
subject?

7 Does it make me remember something that once happened to me? 7 Does it make me think of another word? 7 Does it make me think of its opposite? 7 Does it make me think of something that seems to have nothing to
do with the topic?
Hint . . . write it down anywayit might turn out to be useful.

Ask questions about the idea bubbles, too 7 Does this make me remember something else? 7 Can I extend this idea one step further? Then another step?
Hint . . . a messy cluster diagram is a good cluster diagram.

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STEP ONE: GETTING IDEAS

Getting stuck?
Ask yourself:

7 Am I pre-judging my ideas?
(Solution: leave the judging of them till later.)

7 Am I worrying that Im going off into irrelevant ideas?


(Solution: worry later about whether theyre relevant.)

7 Am I getting bogged down repeating myself?


Relax . . . lopsided is fine for a cluster diagram.

(Solution: go back to the key word, or to one of the bubbles, and start again.)

7 Is my diagram all lopsided?

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RESEARCHING

Choose something from your list to find more information about


Ask yourself:

7 Is there a person, place or an event that I can find out more about? 7 Is there a general idea or concept that I can fill in with specific details?
Hint . . . researching is like fishingthe bigger your net, the more fish youll catch.

Start looking for more information


Ask yourself:

7 Is there a reference book I can look up (a dictionary, encyclopedia,


atlas)?

7 Is there a book about the subject (either non-fiction or fiction)? 7 Can I find sites about this on the Net? 7 Is there a film or video about this?

Decide whether to research personally


Ask yourself:

7 Is there someone I can interview about this (either an individual or a


group)?

7 Can I investigate it by observing it myself (going and having a good


look at what Im researching)?

7 Can I investigate it by experiencing it directly (doing it myself)?

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How to tell when youve found something useful


Ask yourself:

7 Did I find something directly usefulsomething that relates directly to


the key word in the topica date, a fact, an idea?

7 Did I find something that doesnt seem directly useful, but it sticks in
my mind?
Hint . . . dont let the Voice of Doom talk you out of it. Write it down.

7 Did I find some specific examples of something Ive been thinking about
in general terms? (For example, you were thinking about self-discovery in a general way and now you have particular kinds of self-discovery and specific examples of it.)

7 Did I read something that someone else has said about the subject
Hint . . . in the essay, you may not be able to use the personal experience itself, but you can use the insight that came out of it.

that I could use as a direct quote?

7 Did I experience or observe something that gives me a different


perspective or insight?

Make a quick note of what you find, and where its located
More info on note-taking can be found on page 30.

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FREEWRITING

Get some kind of timer and set it for five minutes 7 This is so you dont have to keep checking on how many minutes
youve done.

Write the main words of the topic at the top of the page 7 Keep writing without stopping. 7 If you cant think of anything else to write and you want to stop, dont.

Keep the pen moving across the paper no matter what comes out.

What if I really cant keep going?


Ask yourself:

7 Am I trying to plan in advance what Ill say?


(Solution: let each word suggest the next onejust go forward one word at a time.)

7 Am I worried about writing something silly?


(Solution: write something really silly, then you can stop worrying about it. Try: I cant think of anything to write. This is ridiculous. This is the silliest thing Ive ever done, etc. Eventually your brain will get bored with that and come up with something else.) Relax . . . this isnt the essay, its just warming up.

7 Am I worrying about spelling and using the proper words?


(Solution: relax, youre going to fix all that in Step Six.)

7 Do I keep wanting to stop and read what Ive written?


(Solution: promise yourself you can do thatbut not till the timer goes off.)

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7 Am I going round in circles saying the same thing over and over?
(Solution: take a fresh page and give yourself a run-up with one of these writing starters: The thing about [key word] is I dont know much about [key word] but I do know that This isnt really relevant, but the thing that comes to mind about [key word] is)

Think automatic writing


Its a Zen kind of thingjust let whatever comes, come.

Recap
From having only a blank page and no ideas, youve now got plenty of ideas, and plenty of words on paper. The next step is to choose which of those words might be useful for your piece of writing.

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STEP TWO

Choosing

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Whats in

STEP TWO
49 50 51 55 57 58 64

About choosing ideas Choosing ideas for imaginative writing


Example: Choosing ideas for imaginative writing Doing it: Choosing ideas for imaginative writing

Choosing ideas for an essay


Example: Choosing ideas for an essay Doing it: Choosing ideas for an essay

ABOUT CHOOSING IDEAS

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About choosing ideas


This step is about having a look at all the ideas weve got and assessing them. This is where we start to discriminate between the ideas we definitely cant use, and ones that have some potential. To do that, we need to remind ourselves what our writing job is trying to do. The purpose of imaginative writing, youll remember, is to entertain, so for choosing an idea the test will be: can the idea be made entertaining? The answer will be yes if the idea could engage a readers feelings, let the reader see or hear something, or make a reader want to know what happened next. The purpose of an essay is to persuade or inform or both, so the test well use will be: can this idea be used as part of an argument, or as information about the topic? The answer will be yes if the idea would give the reader facts about the subject, a general concept about it, or an opinion about it, or if the idea could be used as supporting material or evidence. Once youve chosen the ideas you think you can use, two things will happen:

Choosing : auditioning your ideas, finding the stars.

7 Youll get a sense of the shape your piece might takewhat


it could be about.

7 Youll see where there are gapswhere you need to think up


a few more ideas. You might be thinking: Why didnt we just gather useful ideas in the first place? The reason is that useful ideas and useless ideas often come together in the same bundle. If you never let the useless ideas in, youll miss some of the useful ones too. To end up with ten good ideas, you need to start with twenty ordinary ones.

The next section is about imaginative writing. If you want to go on with essay writing, skip ahead to page 57.

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STEP TWO: CHOOSING

Choosing ideas for imaginative writing


Theres a difference between writing about feelings and actually creating feelings in readers. You can use a word like embarrassing about a feeling, but it wont make the feeling happen in a reader. Imaginative writing has to entertain your readers. That means its got to engage their feelingssadness or excitement or amusement. It can also mean you arouse their desire to know what happens nexttheyre caught up in a story or plot. Imaginative writing cant happen in a vacuumit has to happen in a specific place to specific characters. Descriptions of any of these will be part of what makes the piece entertain the reader. For imaginative writing, we can apply the following three tests to our ideas: the feeling test, the story test, and the description test.

1. The feeling test 7 Could I use this idea to get the readers feelings involved to
make them amused, frightened, angry, or pleased? 7 Could I use this idea to help the reader identify with this and recognise feelings from their own experiencemake them think: Oh yes, Ive felt that?

2. The story test


Any event can be part of a story.

7 Could I use this idea as part of an ongoing story? 7 Can I think of something that happened just before it or
something that happened just after it? 7 Is it about an actual incident at a particular moment in time (rather than things in general)? 7 Could I use it to make a reader ask: What happened next?

3. The description test 7 Could I use this idea as the description of a person, place or
If you can draw a picture of it, it passes the test.
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thing in the story (a place where a story might happen, a person it might happen to, or a thing that could be significant)? 7 Could I use it to create a mood or atmosphere? 7 Could I use it to help a reader actually see whats happening?

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Choosing ideas for imaginative writing


Choosing from the list
In Step One I said that my imaginative writing assignment is: Write a piece with the title Steep Learning Curve. Heres the list I made in Step One. Ill go through and see which ideas pass one of the three tests.
D = Passes description test

S = Passes story test

F = Passes feeling test

D D S F D F S S F S F S S

Learning to read Learning to tell the time Learning to swim The Olympic Pool Blue water Little white hexagonal tiles Dad holding me under the chest Dont let go, dont let go Funny echoing noises Feeling of water up nose Learning tennis Hitting balls over fence Huge swing, then miss Jeff Jackson laughing at me Learning French at school Learning lists of words by heart Embarrassing trying to say the words out loud Other kids seemed to be getting it okay Me the only dummie

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STEP TWO: CHOOSING

Choosing from the cluster diagram


Heres my cluster diagram from Step One.

F = Passes feeling test

S = Passes story test

Teachers big clear writing Flashcards in kindy Kooka on the oven door Learning to read S

Learning to swim S

LEARNING Learning French Learning to drive D Quiet back lane suddenly full of cars Jerky starts Driving test Ran over dog D S S S D S Miss M trying to look French Singing Frre Jacques F F Failing tests Panicked

Cheating from Caroline B

D = Passes description test

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Choosing from research


First, here is my idea-getting research from Step One, and the notes I did from it.

Passes feeling test (makes me feel sorry for the rats)

A rat will not normally respond to the turning-on of a light. It does, however, respond to an electric shock applied to its feet. It responds in a great many ways: by squealing, jumping, gnawing, urinating, defecating, changing respiration rate and heart rate, and so on. If a light is turned on just before the application of a shock to the rat, the light alone, after a number of pairings, will elicit some of the responses.
Doesnt pass description test

Learning French as bad as electric shocks. Learned to dread Wednesdays and FridaysFrench days. Tried to be invisible, avoid teachers eye.
Passes story test

This was my idea-developing research.

Passes feeling test (makes me remember the feeling)

All French nouns (persons or things) are considered either masculine or feminine, the noun markers le and la (often referred to as definite articles) indicating the category in a distinction usually known as gender, while the plural of both le and la is les.

Doesnt pass description test

Doesnt pass story test


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Choosing from freewriting


Heres the freewriting I did in Step One.

Passes feeling test

Passes story test

Passes feeling test

Learninghard and embarrassing, you cant do it, you feel stupid. Worse with people who already know how to do it. Now what? I cant think of anything else to write. I dont think this is working French was the worst, it didnt make sense. Maison meant house, I could learn that, a bit like mansion. But what about the le and la business? How were you supposed to remember thattwo different words for the? Why? Why some feminine and some masculine? I asked Miss MWhy is leg feminine and foot masculine. She gave me that what a dummie look. The whole class staring at me. Now Ive run out of things to I cheated. Copied from Caroline B next to me. She tried to stop mesloped her page away and hid it behind her hand. Maybe I really wanted to be found cheating, so someone would rescue me.

From having nothing to write about and no ideas at the start of Step One, Ive now got too many ideas for one piece. I could write a piece about learning French, about swimming, about tennis, about learning to drive or learning to read . . . which should I use for my imaginative writing piece? Ill make that decision in Step Three, when Im putting these ideas into an outline. First, you try choosing.

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Choosing ideas for imaginative writing


F R O M T H E L I S T YO U M A D E I N S T E P O N E

Apply the feeling test to it


Ask yourself: 7 Is this about a feeling? 7 Does it make me feel a feeling? 7 Would others be likely to recognise this feeling? If the answer to any of these is yes, choose it. (Use a highlighter or just draw a circle around it.)
Hint . . . would most people think, Oh yes, Ive felt that?

Apply the story test to it


Ask yourself: 7 Could I use this as part of a story? 7 Could I think of what might have gone before it or what might happen after it? 7 Is this about an actual incident involving a particular person, at a particular time, in a particular place? 7 Could this start: One day? 7 Could I use this to make a reader think: And what happened after that? If the answer to any of these is yes, choose it.

Hint . . . good stories can grow from tiny unimpressive seeds.

Apply the description test to it


Ask yourself: 7 Could this describe a place in my piece of writing? 7 Could this describe a person? 7 Could this describe an object? 7 Does this help a reader see or hear? 7 Could this help to create a mood or atmosphere? If the answer to any of these is yes, choose it.
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STEP TWO: CHOOSING

What if this isnt working?


Ask yourself:

7 Am I setting my standards for choosing unrealistically high?


Relax . . . youre auditioning for potential here, not a polished performance.

(Solution: lower themjust to get yourself startedeven Shakespeare had to start somewhere.)

7 Am I trying to find things that could be used just as they are?


(Solution: recognise that these early ideas might have to be changed before you can use them.)

7 Am I disappointed not to be choosing more ideas?


(Solution: even if you only choose a couple of ideas from your list thats okay. You can build on them.)

Repeat this process with the other things you did in Step One 7 the cluster diagram; 7 the research; 7 the freewriting.

What you have now is a collection of ideas with potential to be used in your piece.

The next section is about essay writing. If you want to go on with imaginative writing, skip ahead to Step Three (page 67).

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Choosing ideas for an essay


The purpose of an essay, youll remember, is to persuade or inform or both. That means engaging the readers thoughts rather than their feelings. They might get some information from your essay or they might see information arranged to illustrate a general concept. Or they might be persuaded of a particular point of view about the topic. In this case the point of view will be supported by examples and other kinds of evidence. For an essay, then, well apply the following three basic tests to all our ideas:

A good essay needs all three of these.

1. The information test 7 Does this idea provide any facts about the subject (for example,
a definition, a date, a statistic or background information)?

2. The concept test 7 Could I use this to put forward a general concept about a
subject (an opinion, a general truth or a summary)?

7 Could I use this as part of a theory or an opinion about the


subject (either my own or someone elses)?

3. The evidence test 7 Could I use this to support any information I present? 7 Could I use this to support an opinion (point of view) or
theory about the subject? 7 Is it a concrete example of the idea Im putting forward? 7 Is it a quote from an authority on the subject, or some other kind of supporting material? At this stage you probably dont know exactly what arguments or points your essay is going to make. Thats okay, you dont have to know that yet. Going through the ideas you have and applying these tests will help you clarify that. Now, Im going to go through all the bits I wrote in Step One and choose anything that will pass any of these three tests. Chicken and egg again . . . let the ideas come first and suggest the theme.
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STEP TWO: CHOOSING

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Choosing ideas for an essay


Choosing from my list
First, Ill remind myself of what my topic is: Every story is a journey towards self-discovery. Using a novel youve read this year as an example, show why you agree or disagree with this statement. Heres the list I made in Step One. Ill go through and see which ideas pass any of the tests for an essay.
Doesnt pass concept test

Passes evidence test (when Ive chosen one)

A novel Ive read this year What have I read? Tomorrow, When the War Began Looking for Alibrandi Huckleberry Finn The Day of the Triffids

Self-discovery What exactly is self-discovery? How define? Discovering you can do something? Learning how to do something? Learning from mistakes? Learning about your own character?

Passes information test (or it will, when I have this information)

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Choosing from the cluster diagram


Heres my cluster diagram from Step One.

Implies you didnt know before Needs things to go wrong


Passes concept test

Things you think you cant do Learning about yourself SELF-DISCOVERY Discover good things

Needs a crisis?

Might not want to know Discover bad things Selfish Cowardly Hurt others
Doesnt pass information test

Kind, wise, brave... mature

Doesnt pass evidence test

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STEP TWO: CHOOSING

Choosing from research


The first piece of research from Step One Ive got is the dictionary definition of discovery. It passes just one of the tests.

Doesnt pass concept test

Passes information test

Discover: To get knowledge of, learn of, or find out; gain sight or knowledge of something previously unseen or unknown.
Doesnt pass evidence test

The second piece of research I did in Step One was to make notes from Tomorrow, When the War Began. The notes also pass only one test, the evidence test.

Passes evidence test

page 69Ellie explodes mowerlearns about defending herself 82steps into lightlearns she can be brave 95thinks about having killed 3 people Doesnt pass concept test 161thinks shes a monster 161doesnt want to be town slut 164surprised that she recovers from guilt of killing 184confusedlikes both Homer and Lee 194realises with Homer the attraction is only physical
Doesnt pass information test

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My third research source in Step One was the book The Adolescent Novel.

Doesnt pass concept test

Doesnt pass information test

. . . by the end of the second volume, Robyn becomes aware of a fact that the reader would have noticed already: that she and her friends have actually gained something by their involvement in the war . . . the characters realise how they have matured and developed . . . (page 177)

Passes evidence test (could be used as a quote to support an argument)

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STEP TWO: CHOOSING

The fourth piece of research was the extract from John Marsdens website.

Passes information test

Passes evidence test (could be used as a quote)

A Word from John Marsden Lots of people have asked where the ideas for the series originated. Of course with any book there are many elements. For me, my fathers stories about World War II were pretty powerful. He fought in the Middle East, Borneo and New Guinea, and was shot in the leg. I was also impressed by the attacks on Australia by the Japanese Navy and Air Force. Most people have forgotten already but Darwin was heavily bombed for a long period in 1942 and Japanese submarines, manned by brave sailors, got into Sydney Harbour, causing devastation and substantial loss of life. It seems to me that in the nineties Australians have become a bit too complacent, and no-one is seriously concerned about our security. Another spur for writing the books was watching an Anzac Day Parade and wondering how todays teenagers would react if they were placed in the same position as their grandparents and great-grandparents in the two world wars. So many people see todays teenagers as drug-and-alcohol crazed graffiti vandals, but I was fairly sure that given a challenge the teenagers of the nineties would show as much courage and maturity as their predecessors.

Passes concept test

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Choosing from freewriting


Heres the piece of freewriting I did in Step One.

Passes evidence test

Passes concept test

Every story is a journey towards self-discoveryis this true? Every story seems like a big claimdoes Red Riding Hood come to self-discovery? Or Cinderella? Not sure. Dont know...yes, in Tomorrow, When the War Began. Ellie discovers shes tough. So tough she kills people. What else, what else, what else? Also discovers feelings she didnt know she hadfor Lee & Homer. Discovers shes confused about her feelingsshes keen on both Lee & Homer & doesnt want them to know. What else? Something about the way she feels about her parents. The roles are reversed, she has to look after them now. Feels responsible for them. Maybe thats another sort of self-discoverysense of obligation. Obligation not coming from what her parents tell her to do but from within herself. First chapterall the kids have to talk their parents into letting them go camping. Whereas later on they have to make their own decisions about whats right & wrong. Is that all? That seems to be all. I cant think of anything. What about the other characters in the book as well as the narrator? Does Homer go through self-discovery? Or did he always know he was a leader typeits just that no one else knew it. Not sure about the other characters. Stick to Ellie.

Doesnt pass information test

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STEP TWO: CHOOSING

DO

Choosing ideas for an essay


F R O M T H E L I S T YO U M A D E I N S T E P O N E

Apply the information test to it


Ask yourself:

7 Could I use this to clarify the terms of the assignment (a definition,


Hint . . . use a highlighter to mark what you choose, or just draw a circle round it.

explanation of words)?

7 Could I use this to clarify the limitations of the assignment (narrowing


it to a particular aspect)?

7 Could I use this as a fact (a date, a name, a statistic)? 7 Could I use this as general background information (historical overview,
some sort of the story so far . . . )? If the answer to any of these is yes, choose it.

Apply the concept test to it


Ask yourself:

7 Could I use this as part of a general concept about the subject


(a general truth or broad idea)?

7 Is this an opinion about the subject (either my own or someone elses)? 7 Could I use this as part of a theory about the subject?
If the answer to any of these is yes, choose it.

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Apply the evidence test to it


Ask yourself:

7 Could I use this as an example of something to do with the assignment? 7 Could I use this to support any idea or point of view about the
assignment?

7 Is this a quote from an authority or an established fact, or any kind


of specific case in point? If the answer to any of these is yes, choose it.

Hint . . . you might need some imagination to see how to use ideas.

What if this isnt working?


Ask yourself:

7 Am I stuck because Im not sure exactly what points Ill make in my


essay? (Solution: you dont have to know that yet. Just choose anything that seems relevant to the assignment. Once youve chosen your ideas, then you can work out exactly how to use them.)

7 Am I setting my standards for choosing unrealistically high?


(Solution: lower them, just to get yourself startedeven Einstein had to start somewhere.)

7 Am I trying to find things that could be used just as they are?


(Solution: recognise that these early ideas might have to be changed before you can use them.)

7 Am I disappointed not to be choosing more ideas?


(Solution: even if you only choose a couple of ideas from your list, thats okay. You can build on them.)

Relax . . . youre auditioning for potential here, not a polished performance.

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STEP TWO: CHOOSING

Repeat this process with the other things you did in Step One 7 the cluster diagram; 7 the research; 7 the freewriting.

Recap
What you have now is a collection of ideas that are all within the broad outlines of your assignment. Next, youll make some decisions about how to use these ideas.

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STEP THREE

Outlining

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Whats in

STEP THREE
69 69 69 70 72 72 72 73 75 83 86 86 87 87 88 91 98

About making an outline


Themes Using index cards Finding patterns in your ideas

Making an outline for imaginative writing


Beginning Middle End Example: Making an outline for imaginative writing Doing it: Making an outline for imaginative writing

Making an outline for an essay


Beginning Middle End Different ways of organising the middle of an essay Example: Making an outline for an essay Doing it: Making an outline for an essay

ABOUT MAKING AN OUTLINE

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About making an outline


An outline is a working plan for a piece of writing. Its a list of all the ideas that are going to be in the piece in the order they should go. Once youve got the outline planned, you can stop worrying about the structure and just concentrate on getting each sentence right. In order to make an outline, you need to know basically what youre going to say in your piecein other words, what your theme is. An outline is also known as: 7 a map 7 a flowchart 7 a plan.

Themes
One way to find a theme is to think one up out of thin air, and then make all your ideas fit around it. Another way is to let the ideas point you to the themeyou follow your ideas, rather than direct them. As you do this, youll find that your ideas arent as haphazard as you thought. Some will turn out to be about the same thing. Some can be put into a sequence. Some might pair off into opposing groups. Out of these natural groupings, your theme will gradually emerge. This way, your theme is not just an abstract concept in a vacuum, which you need to then prop up with enough ideas to fill a few pages. Instead, your theme comes with all its supporting ideas automatically attached.

Using index cards


One of the easiest ways to let your ideas form into patterns is to separate them, so you can physically shuffle them around. Writing each idea on a separate card or slip of paper can allow you to see connections between them that youd never see otherwise. Making an outline involves trial and errorbut it only takes seconds to move cards into a new outline. If you try to start

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STEP THREE: OUTLINING

writing before the outline works properly, it could take you all week to rewrite and rewrite again. In an exam, you cant use cards (see page 208 for another way to do it), and youll gradually develop a way that suits you. But doing an outline on cardseven a few timescan show you just how easy it is to rearrange your ideas.

Finding the patterns in your ideas


One way to put your ideas into order so that your theme can emerge is to use the most basic kind of order, shared by all kinds of writing: 1. A Beginningsome kind of introduction, telling the reader where they are and what kind of thing theyre about to read. Obvious, but then so is a lifeboat! 2. A Middlethe main bit, where you say what youre there to say. 3. An Endsome kind of winding-up part that lets the reader know that this is actually the end of the piece (rather than that someone lost the last page). Exactly whats inside the compartments of Beginning, Middle and End of a piece of writing depends on whether its a piece of imaginative writing, an essay or some other kind of writing. It helps to remember that behind their differences, all writing shares the same three-part structurejust as all hamburgers do.

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TOP BUN Where it all starts: a beginning that gives the reader something to bite into

FILLING A middle that gives the reader all kinds of different stuff

BOTTOM BUN Finishing off the piece: something to hold it all together

The next section is about imaginative writing. If you want to go on with essay writing, skip ahead to page 86.

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STEP THREE: OUTLINING

Making an outline for imaginative writing


Like all writing, imaginative writing can be reduced to the three basic parts: Beginning, Middle and End. Sort your ideas into these groups and youll soon see what your piece will be about. If you summarise each idea on a card, this process will be much easier.

Beginning
Once upon a time there was . . . For imaginative writing, this is often called the orientation (working out where you are). It is where the scene is set and the characters are introduced. Beginnings might include:

7 a description (of characters, settings or objects); 7 essential information (to place the reader in time and space); 7 background information (to fill in some essential past
information).

Middle
Suddenly . . . For imaginative writing, this is sometimes called the complicationwhere the initial situation is complicated by some new factor. Its where the action gets going, and we see how the characters respond. A Middle might include:

7 an incident that sets off a chain of cause and effect; 7 character development; 7 a response by the characters to whats happening; 7 a revealing of how the characters feel about whats
happening (evaluation);

7 dialogue.
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End
This is often called the resolution in imaginative writing. Its where the complicating factor is resolved or defused in some way. An End might include: . . . and then they lived happily ever after.

7 a punch-line or sudden reversal; 7 a surprise twist; 7 a drawing-together of different story threads; 7 a broadening-out effect, pulling back from close-ups of
characters and action;

7 a focus on an image that resonates with the meaning of the


piece. Look at any book or film that works and youll probably find its got this fundamental three-part structure.

BEGINNING (orientation): the situation everything starts with

MIDDLE (complication): the meaty part of the storythe main drama

END (resolution): the bit that ties the story together and keeps it from falling to pieces

So the first step in creating an outline is to decide whether each idea belongs in the Beginning, the Middle, or the End.

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STEP THREE: OUTLINING

Hamburgers are simpler than writing . . .

A plan is a guide, not a police officer.

The problem with this neat and tidy theory is that sometimes the top bun and the bottom bun look the same. Sometimes they even look like a filling. Your bundle of ideas may not divide neatly into these three categories. Also, a story (unlike a hamburger) is often more interesting if the order of the three steps is changed around. For example, a story can leap straight into the complication right at the beginning (He was lying at the foot of the stairs. He was dead all right . . . ) and then go back and do all the introductions (Id known him for years, a small man with a head like an egg . . . ). Also, you may want to get several time frames going at once (for example, using a flashback). This is where index cards come in. They make it easy to keep on rearranging your ideas until youre happy with the order. And if you need to add some new ideas, you can just make more cards. With imaginative writing, the best things sometimes come to you as you write, rather than as you plan. You should feel free to make changes if you think of something better, but you need a plan to get you started. As you play around rearranging the cards, youll probably start to see the big picture of your piecethe overall shape of the story, the theme. Once youve got that, you can make a onesentence summary of it to act as a reminder of the piece as a whole.

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Making an outline for imaginative writing


First, Ill remind myself again of my assignment: Write a piece with the title Steep Learning Curve .

Looking at the ideas Ive chosen


The ideas Ive got so far (from my list, my cluster diagram, my research and my freewriting) are mainly about four different learning experiences:

learning French; learning to swim; learning to drive; learning tennis.

It looks as though I could have a story about any one of these, so my first job is to choose one. Glancing back over the ideas in Step One, I see that there seem to be more ideas about learning French than the other areas, and my memories about it are quite vivid. For the moment Ill decide that my story is going to be about learning French. (If this idea doesnt work out as I go along, I can always come back to one of the others.)

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STEP THREE: OUTLINING

Index cards
Im going to make a card for each idea Ive chosen that has to do with French. The card will have just a brief summary of the idea. These are the cards I end up with: From the list Saying French words embarrassing
Lea rni n ea yh rt

f go

fb

Oth er dum kids oka mie y, m e th e

From the cluster diagram Miss M trying to look French

Ch

in Fail

r gF

h enc

s test

eat

ing

acques Frre J Singing

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From research French classeslike rats


xtbo om te r f e Quot ok

From freewriting

Le and la problem

Miss

M unh elpf

ul

me

che

at

Ca

rol

ine

nt I wa d i D

no

tl

to

ett

cau be

ing

ght

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STEP THREE: OUTLINING

Sorting the cards


The next thing is to sort the cards into the three basic categories: Beginning, Middle and End. A card that belongs at the Beginning will help set the scene. It introduces the characters, describes the setting, or generally tells the reader where they are and whats happening. They tend to be cards that describe general things that often happen, not particular events. My scene is an uninspired learner in a high school French class, so Ill pick out any card that could help to orient the reader in that kind of scene.

Saying French words embarrassing Learning off by heart

Other kids okay, me the dummie Miss M trying to look French

Failing French tests French classeslike rats

Quote from textbook

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A card that belongs in the Middle introduces a complicationsomething starts happening at this point in the story. These cards suggest an event that could happenone particular incident or problem.

Le and la problem Singing Frre Jacques Cheating

Miss M unhelpful Caroline not letting me cheat

Did I want to be caught?

A card that belongs at the End shows the problem getting resolved, or gives a sense of winding up. I dont seem to have anything like that.

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STEP THREE: OUTLINING

Refining the outline


Next, I rearrange the cards within each of these piles until theyre in the order that seems best. (I also drop Frre Jacquesit doesnt fit.) Beginning Other kids okay, me the dummie Learning off by heart Saying French words embarrassing Quote from textbook Failing French tests Miss M trying to look French French classeslike rats

starting with most general

increasing sense of desperation

Middle Le and la problem Miss M unhelpful Cheating Caroline not letting me cheat Did I want to be caught? End
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a particular problem at a particular time

sequence of events following on from problem

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Still emptynothing for this pile.

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Adding to the outline


Seeing this on cards makes it painfully obvious that Ive got a very unbalanced storytheres plenty of scene-setting, a little bit of complication and no resolution at all. Ill make two new cards for the Middle:

Details of cheating
What like g felt n i t a che

I need some more ideas for an End, so Ill make a list of all the different endings I can think of.

Im caught cheatingsent to principalexpelled. Im not caught, but feel guiltyconfess and feel relieved. Im not caught, but other girls answers are wrong too.

None of these seems very good, but the last one seems the most interesting, so Ill make a new card for that. I start to see the overall shape of the story now, so Ill make a new card with a summary of the whole piece: Think Im the only dummiecheatother girls answers wrong too.

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STEP THREE: OUTLINING

My final outline, including the new cards, looks like this:

Think Im the only dummie cheatother girls answers wrong too.

Beginning Other kids okay, me the dummie Learning off by heart Saying French words embarrassing Quote from textbook Failing French tests Miss M trying to look French French classeslike rats

Middle Le and la problem Miss M unhelpful Cheating How I cheated What cheating felt like Caroline not letting me cheat Did I want to be caught?

End Other girls answers wrong too

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Making an outline for imaginative writing


1
Look at the assignment again 7 This is so you dont stray off it.

One story or several? 7 If youve got ideas that point towards more than one story, decide
which one youll go with.

Hint . . . pick the one youd prefer to write, not the one you think you should write.

Get some cards 7 Normal sized index cards cut in half work well. 7 Write each idea on a separate card. 7 Just a word or two will do for each (enough to remind you what the
idea is).

Pick out cards for a Beginning pile


Ask yourself whether these cards could set the scene:

7 Could I use it to describe a person, place or thing in the story? 7 Does it establish a situation? 7 Does it introduce a character? 7 Does it feel like a wide shot or a title squence?
If the answer to any of these is yes, put those cards together.

Hint . . . some cards could work equally well in more than one placetry both.

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STEP THREE: OUTLINING

Pick out cards for a Middle pile


Ask yourself whether these cards could show an event happening at a particular time or place:

7 Does it introduce a new factor into the situation? 7 Does it show a problem or a conflict happening? 7 Would it make a reader wonder, And then what happened? 7 Does it show characters interacting with each other (through dialogue
or action)?

7 Does it show characters responding to the problem/conflict (by doing


something, thinking something or feeling something)?

7 Could it be the climaxthe most dramatic moment? 7 Does it feel like a close-up?
If the answer to any of these is yes, put those cards together in a second pile.

6
Hint . . . you may not have any cards for this pile yet.

Pick out cards for an End pile


Ask yourself whether these cards could show some kind of resolution:

7 Is a problem sidestepped or moved on from? 7 Could this be used to show a moment of equilibrium or stillness
(a strong image, perhaps)?

7 Does it feel like a zoom out or an end title sequence?


If the answer to any of these is yes, put those cards together in a third pile.

Refine the outline


Ask yourself:

7 Are the cards in the Beginning in the best order? 7 Are the cards in the Middle in the best order? 7 Are the cards in the End in the best order?
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Adding to the outline


Ask yourself:
Hint . . . the climax should usually be at the end of the Middle.

7 Have I got big gaps that are making it hard to see an overall shape?
(Solution: make temporary cards that approximately fill the gap describe Fred or show Freds feelings or crisis.)

7 Have I got plenty in one pile but nothing in another?


(Solution: start with the pile you have most cards for. Get it in order. Then work on the other piles, making new temporary cards as you go.)

Not working? 7 Am I stuck because I cant think of an ending or an opening?


(Solution: you dont need to know exactly how your piece will begin and end. Getting the middle right is the main thingthat will help you see how to begin and end.)
Hint . . . this plan may change as you writejust get it roughly right.

7 Am I trying to force in something thats so wonderful I cant bear not


to use it? (Solution: put the wonderful thing in a folder called Good ideas to use some other time.)

What you have now is a clear idea of what your piece is about, whos in it and where it happens. This outline will be like a map to follow when you start writing.

The next section is about essay writing. If you want to go on with imaginative writing, skip ahead to Step Four (page 103).

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STEP THREE: OUTLINING

Making an outline for an essay


Youve now got a collection of ideas that all relate in some way to your essay assignment. What youll do here is rearrange those ideas so they end up as an orderly sequence that will inform or persuade the reader. To do that, youll need to know what your theme isthe underlying argument or point of your essay. The first step towards this is to put each of your ideas on a separate card or slip of paper. That makes it much easier to find patterns in your ideas. As you look at the ideas on the cards, chances are youll start to notice that:

Sometimes you know your theme from the beginning.

7 some ideas go together, saying similar things; 7 some ideas contradict each other; 7 some ideas can be arranged into a sequence, each idea emerging
Other times, your collection of ideas will tell you what the theme should be. out of the one before it. By looking at these groupings, youll begin to see how you can apply your ideas to the task of your assignment. Once you have a basic approach (you dont need to know it in detail), you can begin to shape your ideas into an outline. Start with the most basic shape, using the fact that every piece of writing has a Beginning, a Middle and an End.

Beginning
Tell the reader what youre going to say . . . Often called the introduction. Readers need all the help that writers can give them, so the introduction is where we tell them, briefly, what the essay will be about. Different essays need different kinds of introductions, but every introduction should have a thesis statement: a one-sentence statement of your basic idea. As well, an introduction may have one or more of these:

7 an overview of the whole subject; 7 background to the particular issue youre going to write
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7 a definition or clarification of the main terms of the


assignment;

7 an outline of the different points of view that can be


taken about the assignment;

7 an outline of the particular point of view you plan to take


in the essay.

Middle
Often called the development. This is where you develop, paragraph by paragraph, the points you want to make. A development might include: Say what youre going to say . . .

7 informationfacts, figures, dates, data; 7 examplesof whatever points youre making; 7 supporting material for your pointsquotes, logical causeand-effect workings, putting an idea into a larger context.

End
Often called the conclusion. Youve said everything you want to say, but by this time your readers are in danger of forgetting where they were going in the first place, so you remind them. A conclusion might include: And finally, tell the reader what youve just said.

7 a recap of your main points, to jog the readers memories; 7 a summing-up that points out the larger significance or
meaning of the main points;

7 a powerful image or quote that sums up the points youve


been making.

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STEP THREE: OUTLINING

TOP BUN Beginning (introduction): where you tell the reader briefly how youre going to approach the subject FILLING Middle (development): where you lay out all the points you want to make BOTTOM BUN End (conclusion): this ties the essay together and relates all the bits to each other Just sitting and looking at a list of ideas and trying to think about them in your head doesnt usually get you anywhere. Writing is like learning to play tennisyou dont learn tennis by thinking about it, but by trying to do it. You might have to spend a while rearranging your index cardsbut it will save time and pain in the long run.

Different ways of organising the middle of an essay


Finding a sequence for your ideas . . . The Middle of an essay should be arranged in an orderly way: you cant just throw all the bits in and hope for the best. What that orderly way is, depends on your assignment.

One-pronged essays
Some assignments only ask about one kind of thing or one way of looking at a subject. In that case you can just put the filling into the burger in whatever orderly way seems best for the subject. One kind of arrangement might be to present the ideas from the most important to least important, or from the most distant in time to the most recent.

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INTRODUCTION POINT 1 ABOUT ORANGES + EVIDENCE POINT 2 ABOUT ORANGES + EVIDENCE POINT 3 ABOUT ORANGES + EVIDENCE CONCLUSION

Two-pronged essays
Some essays want you to deal with two subjects (not just oranges, but oranges and apples) or two different points of view (for example, an assignment that asks you to discuss by putting the case for and against something, or an assignment that asks you to compare or contrast different views). With these twopronged assignments, its easy to get into a muddle with structure. For two-pronged assignments you can organise the middle in either of the following ways (but not a combination!). All the points about oranges, then all the points about apples: INTRODUCTION POINT 1 ABOUT ORANGES POINT 2 ABOUT ORANGES POINT 3 ABOUT ORANGES POINT 1 ABOUT APPLES POINT 2 ABOUT APPLES POINT 3 ABOUT APPLES CONCLUSION

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STEP THREE: OUTLINING

One point about apples, then one point about oranges, and so on: INTRODUCTION POINT 1 ABOUT ORANGES POINT 1 ABOUT APPLES POINT 2 ABOUT ORANGES POINT 2 ABOUT APPLES POINT 3 ABOUT ORANGES POINT 3 ABOUT APPLES CONCLUSION

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Making an outline for an essay


First a reminder of the assignment: Every story is a journey towards selfdiscovery. Using a novel youve read this year as an example, show why you agree or disagree with this statement.

Index cards
Ill start by making these index card summaries for the ideas I chose in Step Two:

From the list


isco TWTWB (Tomorrow, When the elf-d hat s W War Began) is a good example s mean of the statement very (s-d)

From the cluster diagram S-d needs a crisis


know idnt d u o sy mplie S-d i e befor S-d can be about good things

S-d c an be about bad t hings

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STEP THREE: OUTLINING

From research
82) y (p. r e v a f br Dictionary definition e.g. o e.g. o f emo tiona (p. 18 e.g. of guilt (p. 95) l conf 4) usion Quo te crit ics en Ellie arsd in lov M e e t ( o p. 161 Qu )

From freewriting
Ellie tough

gs elin e f t bou da e s fu Parentchild reversal con llie

What groups of ideas are here?


Looking at my ideas on cards from Step Two, I can see that they fall into three main groups:

7 ideas about what self-discovery can mean (for example, discovering


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good things/discovering bad things);

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7 examples of Ellies self-discovery in the novel; 7 other peoples ideas (quotes from the critics and John Marsden).
Now I need to decide on my basic approach to the assignment:

7 Will I agree or disagree with the statement about self-discovery? 7 Can I support either point of view with evidence?
I decide to agree with the statement because Ive got plenty of examples of self-discovery in the novel. That will do for the moment as my theme.

Sorting the cards


The next thing is to sort the cards into three piles: Beginning, Middle and End. Beginning Cards in this pile will be any that give an introduction to the subject: an overview, background information, clarification of terms used, or general concepts about the subject. Ill pull out all the cards that seem to do any of those things.

TWTWB a good example What self-discovery means

S-d needs a crisis

S-d can be about good things

S-d implies you didnt know before S-d can be about bad things Dictionary definition

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STEP THREE: OUTLINING

Middle Cards in this pile will develop the concepts in more detail using examples and evidence. e.g. of bravery (p. 82) e.g. of guilt (p. 95) e.g. of emotional confusion (p. 184) Quotecritics Parentchild reversal QuoteMarsden Ellie tough e.g. of Ellie in love (p. 161) Ellie confused about feelings

End Cards in this pile will draw general conclusions from the other ideas or sum them up in some way. I dont think I have any like that yet.

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Refining the outline


Ill put the cards within each of these groups into the order that seems best. Beginning S-d implies you didnt know before TWTWB a good example Dictionary definition S-d can be about good things S-d can be about bad things S-d needs a crisis

Middle Looking at the cards, a natural structure suggests itself: I sort the cards into good kinds of self-discovery and bad kinds of self-discovery. While I was doing this, I removed a few cards that doubled up on the same idea.

e.g. of bravery (p. 82) e.g. of Ellie in love (p. 161) Parentchild reversal

e.g. of guilt (p. 95) e.g. of emotional confusion (p. 184) Quotecritics QuoteMarsden

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STEP THREE: OUTLINING

All this rearranging of the cards has enabled me to see the theme more clearly. Ill make a summary card that outlines my basic argument. This will become my thesis statement when I start to write the essay.

Summary: Agree with statement: TWTWB a journey towards self-discoveryboth good things and bad

Adding to the outline


The Beginning and the Middle seem to have enough material; however the End is blank. Just to complete the outline, I do an End card even though its almost the same as the theme card.

TWTWBshows journey to self-discovery

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Heres my final outline: Summary: Agree with statement: TWTWB a journey towards self-discoveryboth good things and bad

Beginning TWTWB a good example Dictionary definition S-d implies you didnt know before S-d can be about good things S-d can be about bad things S-d needs a crisis

Middle e.g. of bravery (p. 82) e.g. of Ellie in love (p. 161) Parentchild reversal e.g of guilt (p. 95) e.g. of emotional confusion (p. 184) Quotecritics QuoteMarsden

End TWTWB shows a journey to self-discoveryboth good things and bad

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STEP THREE: OUTLINING

DO

Making an outline for an essay


1
Look at the assignment again 7 This is so you dont stray off it.

2
Hint . . . pick the one youd prefer to write, not the one you think you should write.

What groups of ideas are here? 7 If youve got ideas that point in different directions within the
assignment, you might have to decide which to focus on.

7 Or you may be able to organise the ideas into a two-pronged essay


(see page 89).

Get some index cards 7 Normal sized index cards cut in half seem to be most user-friendly
for this.

7 Write each idea on a separate card. 7 Just a word or two will do for each (enough to remind you of what
the idea is).

Hint . . . let the cards point towards the theme, not the other way round.

Think about your essays theme 7 Look for ideas that go together, that contradict each other, or that
form a sequence.

7 From those patterns, see if a theme or argument seems to be emerging.

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Pick out cards for a Beginning pile


Ask these questions about each card:
Hint . . . dont look for what a card is, but what it could be.

7 Is this a general concept about the subject of the assignment? 7 Does it give background information? 7 Is it an opinion or theory about the subject? 7 Could it be used to define or clarify the terms of the assignment?
If the answer to any of these is yes, put those cards together.

Pick out cards for a Middle pile


Ask yourself:

7 Could I use this to develop an argument or a sequence of ideas about


the assignment?

7 Could I use this as evidence for one point of view, or its opposite? 7 Could I use this as an example?
If the answer to any of these is yes, put those cards together in a second pile.

Pick out cards for an End pile


Ask yourself:
Hint . . . you may not have any End cards yet.

7 Does this summarise my approach to the assignment? 7 Could I use it to draw a general conclusion? 7 Could I use it to show the overall significance of the points Ive made,
and how they relate to the assignment? If the answer to any of these is yes, put those cards together.

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STEP THREE: OUTLINING

8
Keep asking: How can I use these ideas to address the assignment?

Refine your outline


Ask yourself:

7 Can I make a theme or summary card? 7 Are the ideas in the Middle all pointing in the same direction (a onepronged essay)? If so, arrange them in some logical order that relates to the assignment.

7 Are the ideas pointing in different directions, with arguments for and
against, or about two different aspects of the topic (a two-pronged essay)? For more information on two-pronged essays, see page 89.

7 Are the cards in the Beginning in the best order?


Generally you want to state your broad approach first, then refer to basic information background (such as definitions or generally agreed on ideas).

7 Are the cards at the End in the best order?


(You may not have any cards for your End yet . . . read on.)

9
Spend time rearranging the cards, and make as many gap fillers as you need to.

Add to the outline


Ask yourself:

7 Have I got big gaps that are making it hard to see an overall shape?
(Solution: make temporary cards that approximately fill the gap: find example or think of counter-argument.)

7 Have I got plenty in one pile but nothing in another?


(Solution: get whichever pile you have most cards for, into order. That will help you see where you go next, and you can make new cards as you see whats needed.)

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10

Not working? 7 Am I stuck because I cant think of what my basic approach should be?
(Solution: start with the Middle cards and think of how these ideas can address the assignment. If one point seems stronger than the others, see if you can think of others that build on it.)

7 Am I stuck because my ideas dont connect to each other?


(Solution: find the strongest pointthe one that best addresses the assignment. Then see how the other points might relate to it. They might give a different perspective, or a contradictory one, but if they connect in some way, you can use them to develop your response to the assignment.)

7 Am I stuck because I havent got a Beginning or an End?


(Solution: make two temporary cards: on the first, write This essay will show and finish the sentence by summarising the information youre going to put forward, the argument youre going to make or the two points of view youre going to discuss; on the second, write This essay has shown and finish the sentence by recapping the information you will have given by the end of the essay, the argument you will have made, or by coming down in favour of one of the two points of view.)

These are just to complete the plan. Youll make them sound better later.

Recap
What you have now is a good idea of what your piece of writing will be about. You also have an outline that will be like a map to follow when you start writing. Thats what comes next.

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STEP FOUR

Drafting

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Whats in

STEP FOUR
105 105 106 106 110 112 112 113 113 114 114 115 120 122 122 122 123 123 124 124 125 131

About writing a first draft


Only a first draft The GOS factor About style How to decide on the best style for your piece

First draft for imaginative writing


Show, dont tell Write about what you know Keep the flow going Getting stuck How to end it Example: First draft for imaginative writing Doing it: First draft for imaginative writing

First draft for an essay


Choosing an appropriate style Building paragraphs Using your outline Keeping the flow going Getting stuck How to end it Example: First draft for an essay Doing it: First draft for an essay

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About writing a first draft


One of the occupational diseases of writers is putting off the dreaded moment of actually starting to write. Its natural to want to get it right first time, but thats a big ask, so naturally you put it off some more. However, unless youre sitting for an exam, you can do as many drafts as you need to get it right. (Some of us do quite a number: my last novel was up to draft 24 when I gave it to the publishers.) First drafts are the ones writers burn so no one can ever know how bad they were. Cleaning your room never looked so good!

Only a first draft


Redrafting can seem like a chore, but you could also see it as a freedom. It means that this first draft can be as rough and wrong as you like. It can also be (within reason) any length. In Step Five youll add or cut as you need to, to make it the right length, so you dont need to worry about length at the moment. Writing is hard if youre thinking, Now I am writing my piece. Thats enough to give anyone the cold horrors. Its a lot easier if you think, Now I am writing a first draft of paragraph one. Now I am writing a first draft of paragraph two. Anything you can do to make a first draft not feel like the final draft will help. Writing by hand might make it easier to write those first, foolish sentences. Promising yourself that youre not going to show this draft to a single living soul can help, too. But the very best trick I know to get going with a first draft is this: Dont start at the beginning. Even the longest journey starts with a single step.

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The GOS factor


The hardest place to start is at the beginning. The reason for this is the GOS factor. This is the knowledge that our piece has to have a Great Opening Sentenceone that will grip the reader from the very first moment. Probably the hardest sentence in any piece of writing is the first one (the next hardest is the GFSthe final one). Starting with the hardest sentencethe one with the biggest expectations riding on itis enough to give you writers block before youve written a word. Years of my life were wasted staring at pieces of paper, trying to think of a GOS. These days, instead of agonising about that GOS, I just jot down a one-line summary to start with. I dont even think about the GOS until Ive written the whole piece. In Step Five (page 139) theres some information about how you might write a GOSbut you dont need it yet. No matter where you start and whatever the piece is about, you need to decide how the piece should be writtenthe best style for its purposes. Lets take a minute to look into this idea of style.

About style
Style is a loose sort of concept thats about how something is written rather than what is written. Choosing the best style for your piece is like deciding what to wear. You probably wouldnt go to the school formal in your trackies and trainers, and its not likely youd go to the gym in your silk and satin. In the same way, you wouldnt use the same language for every situation. It all depends on what the piece of writing is for.

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Writing, like clothes, is all about making choices. Lets have a look at some of those choices:

INFORMAL STYLE

FORMAL STYLE

Casual, everyday words

Contractions (shortenings)

Formal, literary words

Correct word order

Styles a bit of a woolly thing, but the bottom line is that it means the way Im writing, not what Im writing about.
Colloquial or slangy expressions Personal sound I speaking directly to the reader

The notion of style, while not precise, suggests differences in the manner in which the piece is written, rather than in its content.
Complex sentences with parenthesis (extra bit) in the middle Impersonal sound a distant, observing voice

Simple two-part sentence

You can see from this that style boils down to three factors: word choice, voice and sentence structure. Well look at each of those one by one.

Choice of words
English is well-supplied with synonymsdifferent words that mean the same thing. They may mean the same, but youd choose different ones for different purposes. The average kitchen contains quite a few cockroaches. The average kitchen contains heaps of cockroaches. The average kitchen contains numerous cockroaches.

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Theres usually no right word, only the word thats best for what youre trying to do.

If you were aiming to be convincing, factual and authoritative, youd probably use numerous. If you were aiming to be chatty and friendly, you might choose heaps. If you were aiming for somewhere in between, you might use quite a few. Whichever one you choose is a matter of judging which one will serve your purposes best. That means thinking about the purpose of your piece and who will be reading it.

Voice
Listen to the following sentences. Whos speaking in each one?
I hate all kinds of bugs.

This sounds personal and close up, like a person talking directly to you. Its called the first person narrator because an I is speaking.
You (reader) hate all kinds of bugs.

This narrator is telling you about yourself. This is the second person because the narrator is speaking to a second person, you. Sometimes the you is not actually said, but its there in the background, and then it sounds as if the you is being given an order. For example, Sit downthe you is there but not actually said. This is called the imperative (meaning what you must do).
He [or she] hates all kinds of bugs.

This narrator is talking about other people. Its a sort of onlooker. This is the third person (its talking about things happening to a third persona he or a she).
One hates all kinds of bugs.

This is when youre talking about yourself, but in a disguised wayyoure speaking about yourself as if youre a third person you want to stay hidden behind a third persons mask.

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This can also be used to show that youre speaking about people in generalto give the idea that its a universal truthfor example, To make an omelette, one must break eggs. Sometimes we use you as a more informal version of this universal narrator, so it doesnt sound quite so pompousfor example, To make an omelette, you must break eggs.
Bugs are hated.

This sentence doesnt tell us who hates bugs; someone does but the narrator has not told us. The narrator has rearranged the words so that bugs are the subject and focus of attention in the sentence. This is called the passive voice. Computer grammar checks seem to hate the passive voice, but it has its uses. It has a certain authority. It also allows the writer to hide information from the readerin the example above, we arent told who hates bugs. You can see from these examples that the choice you make will have a big effect on the way readers respond. If you want your readers to be charmed, to feel relaxed, to like you, youd probably use the personal, chatty, first-person I narrator. You might use the personal voice in a letter or for a piece of imaginative writing, for example. If you want them to be convinced by you and believe what youre saying, youd choose a less personal narrator with more authoritythe third person. You would probably use third person in an essay or a report because of its confident and objective feel. If you want to shift the emphasis of the sentence away from the person acting, or to the action itself, you might use the passive voice. For example, in a scientific report you might say, A test tube was taken or Four families were interviewed.

The writer as actor, choosing a tone of voice.

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Sentence structure or syntax


Syntax just means the way you put your words together to make sentences. The simplest kind of sentence has a grammatical subject, a verb and an object: I (subject) hate (verb) bugs (object). This arrangement can be varied. Sometimes you want to do something more elaborate like adding clauses and phrases, or changing the usual order of words.
My house is full of bugs, which I hate. Bugs! I hate them. I hate bugs, although my house is full of them. Although my house is full of bugs, I hate them; however ants are differentI find them rather cute.

Varying syntax is a way of making your writing more interesting to read.

How to decide on the best style for your piece


Writing usually has several purposesbut theres usually one main purpose. Okayso you can make a piece sound different depending on what style you choose. But how do you know what style is right for a particular piece of writing? The answer is to go back and look again at what your piece of writing is trying to do. Youll find more about this back on page 49, but to remind you, writing is usually trying to:

7 entertain; 7 persuade; 7 inform.


If a piece of writing is mainly setting out to entertain, you need to ask what style will be most entertaining for this particular piece.

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If a piece of writing is setting out to persuade, you need to ask what style will be most persuasive. If youre setting out to inform, you need to ask what style will be best to convey information. So, work out what your piece of writing is trying to do, then choose the best style for that purpose and write in it.

What if I can only think of one style?


Writing in different styles for different purposes assumes that you can choose between several ways of saying something. It assumes, for example, that you can think of another word for heaps if youre writing an essay. But maybe you cant think of another way to say it. One solution is to go to a thesaurus and try to find a similar word. This is okay in theory but the thesaurus wont tell you whether the word you find is going to fit with the tone of your piece. It doesnt know what kind of piece youre writing. A different way is to use the actor all of us have inside ourselves. Try this: if you can only think of heaps, and you know its too slangy for your essay, pretend youre a school principal or the prime minister and say your sentence in the tone of voice and words youd imagine them using. If you can only think of numerous, but you want your piece to sound relaxed and chatty, try pretending youre on the phone to your best friend and say the sentence in the sort of words youd probably use to him or her.

The writer as ventriloquist, using other peoples voices.

The next section is about imaginative writing. If you want to go on with essay writing, skip ahead to page 122.

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STEP FOUR: DRAFTING

First draft for imaginative writing


Styles can be combined and blended for special effect. With imaginative writing youre trying to entertain your reader. You can write it in whatever style you want, from super-formal to totally slangywhatever you think will be most entertaining. Your first decision about style might not be the right one. Youll probably know after a paragraph or two. If you need to change your mind, thats normal, because imaginative writing allows many possible styles. The idea now is to go through the items on your outline and write each one out as a paragraph. Sometimes you can reuse some of the original writing that you did in Step One (for example, the freewriting). Mostly, youll have to expand on it.

Show, dont tell


Imaginative writing always works best if its about a particular event rather than general or abstract thoughts. As you write out each item from the outline, make it into an incident, on a specific day, in a specific place, happening to specific characters. If you can start an idea with the words One day, then its specific and therefore has a good chance of working. If not, then it might be too general, and less likely to be interesting. This is a version of the oldest and best advice to writers: Show, dont tell. Showing things happening, so that the reader can see the event unfolding in what feels like real time, is more interesting than you just telling the reader a summary of what happened. (Compare: I felt nervous with My legs tensed up, my stomach felt fluttery and my hands were suddenly cold and clammy.)

Think film: could you show this happening in a film?

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Write about what you know


This is good advice, too. If you try writing about characters and situations you dont know anything about, your writing will end up thin, flat and full of cliches youve borrowed from books or films. This doesnt mean you have to write about yourself. Take what you know, then give it to your characters. Ransack your memory, stories your mother told you or something you read in the paper last week for juicy details that you can adapt for your piece. What you know might not seem interesting to youbut it will to your readers.

Keep the flow going


Dont be stumped by the GOSthe Great Opening Sentence. If you are having trouble with thisand most of us dogive yourself a sound bite that sums up the piece. Write This piece is basically about and finish the sentence in whatever words come to you. This sound bite wont be in the finished piece. Its just to remind yourself of the big picture, before you get lost in the detail. Continue your first draft in the same way you did the freewriting in Step One (page 16). Plunge in and try not to stop. Dont keep looking back at what youve done and criticising it. Youll do that, but later. For now, youre just aiming to get the whole thing written out, no matter how rough it is. Dont worry about spelling for a first draft. If you can think of a word but not how to spell it, just write it the best way you can youll correct it in Step Six. If you cant even think of the word, just stick in any word that will remind you of what you mean. Youll find the right word later. Some items in your outline might take off and become several paragraphs. Thats okaylet it happen. If writing is taking off, its because youre interested. And if youre interested, your readers will be, too. And dont stop and fix up bits as you write. Write the whole thing out first, otherwise youll have a gorgeous first paragraph followed by six blank pages.

Dont stop and dont look back!

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Getting stuck
We all get stuckits normal. The only difference between a writer and a non-writer is that writers have learned a few tricks to get unstuck. Sometimes when youre stuck you think, Ill be okay once I get to the bit about the giraffe. Well, make it easy for yourself. Skip ahead to the bit about the giraffe. Come back later to the bit you got stuck on. You may find you dont need it, after all you might have got stuck Image Not Available for the good reason that it shouldnt have been there in the first place.

No one will ever know you cheated!

Take heart endings are hard for every writer.

How to end it
The only thing harder than a GOS is a GFS (Great Final Sentence). I had 74 goes for one of my novels. Decide that youre probably going to be writing at least six GFSs before you get one you can live with. That takes the pressure off the first one. The end of a piece doesnt have to tie up all the threads as neatly as a parcel. It can just suggest a mood or feeling, or it can be nothing more final than a moment of equilibrium. Think of films they often end on an image thats satisfying and suggestive, even though nothing is actually resolved. (In Step Five, page 139, there are some hints about writing a GFS.) Dont show this first draft to anyonenot until youve got to Step Six. If you show it to people before its properly formed, theyll all give you conflicting advice, which wont be much help at all.

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First draft for imaginative writing


To remind you again, heres the assignment: Write a piece with the title Steep Learning Curve.

Deciding on a style
Since this is an imaginative writing piece, its basic job is to entertain. I want the reader to enjoy reading itperhaps to identify with it. The piece can be quite personal, although it doesnt have to be about me (just a character who shares some of my experiences). And it doesnt have to be in the first person. Ill use an informal style, with casual, everyday words. Ill use a firstperson voice (though Ill reserve the right to change my mind about this as I go on). Ill keep the sentences fairly simple, but not childish.

The GOS factor


Instead of attempting a Great Opening Sentence, Ill just prop up my oneline summary in front of me as I write. Think Im the only dummie cheatother girls answers wrong too.

Using the outline


Turn back to page 82 to see my outline. Now Im going to go through each card on it, developing each idea into a sentence or two.

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STEP FOUR: DRAFTING

First, the Beginning Other kids okay, me the dummie I always felt stupid in French classes. None of the others seemed to be having a problem, though.

Learning off by heart

I just couldnt remember the words, no matter how hard I tried.

Saying French words embarrassing

I hated having to pronounce the words in French. I knew they sounded clunky and awful.

Quote from textbook

The textbook didnt help. All French nouns (persons or things) are considered either masculine or feminine, the noun markers le and la (often referred to as definite articles) indicating the category in a distinction usually known as gender.

Failing French tests

Wed had three tests so far and Id failed them all.

Miss M trying to look French

The French teacher, lets call her Miss M, was always very smartly dressed in little suits that were just a bit too tight in the jacket. She always stood like a demonstration of Good Posture. I think she was trying to look French.

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French classeslike rats

Wed learned in Science about rats in cages where experimenters gave them electric shocks every time they turned on a light. After a while just the light was enough to make them squeal. There were days when I felt like that every Wednesday and Friday morning I woke up with a headache.

Next, the Middle Le and la problem

The le and la business had me confused. I could eventually memorise the fact that maison meant house. It was a bit like mansion. But what about le and la? They both meant the, but le went with nouns that were called masculine and la went with words that were called feminine. I couldnt see anything particularly masculine or feminine about them.

Miss M unhelpful

One day, I got up courage to ask Miss M about it. Miss M, why is leg feminine and foot masculine? I asked. I was already sorry Id asked. I felt a little stirring in the class, as if everyone was thinking, Wow, what a dummie she is. Miss M smiledbut it wasnt a friendly smile, or an understanding smile. To me it looked like a pitying smile. Im afraid thats just the way they are, Louise. You just have to learn them, thats all.

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STEP FOUR: DRAFTING

Cheating

She turned away. I wasnt worth bothering with. Now girls, a vocab test! My heart sank. Miss M had this thing about testsshe gave them all the time, and went around the class looking over everyones shoulders as they did them. It was the luck of the draw, but it would be just my luck shed pick up mine. The house, she said. Thehouse. I could remember mansion. That wasnt quite right, but it was close. Maison. That was it. But was it le or la? Wall. Thewall. Wall. Wall. I didnt have a clue. I stared at my blank page, willing a word to come to me. Miss M had got closer. Instead of working her way from front to back she was working her way across the room. She was only two desks away now.

How I cheated

As Caroline, the girl next to me, wrote something, I leaned back in my chair. If I leaned back just a bit further, Id be able to see what shed written.

What cheating felt like

I shocked myself. I was deliberately trying to cheat! I had never cheated in my life before. It had never even crossed my mind. But with Miss M getting closer, step by slow step, this was the moment I was going to start.

Caroline not letting me cheat

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The trouble was, Caroline knew what I was trying to do. She leaned down, closer to the paper. Her hair swung forward and her hand curved around her work. I stared at her shoulder as I heard her pen go again. Scratch. Scratch.

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Did I want to be caught?

Miss M was quite close now. I thought she might have seen me trying to copy. I was almost glad. If they caught me cheating at French, maybe theyd let me do some other language that didnt have ridiculous masculines and feminines.

Finally, that End card

Other girls answers wrong too

Miss M was at the next desk now, looking hard at me. Under cover of a cough, I sort of jerked forward and accidentally-onpurpose nudged Carolines shoulder. Just for a moment, her arm flew back and her hand uncovered the page. My eye took in at a glance what was there: The house The wall Suddenly Miss M was right beside us. She picked up Carolines paper. The house, she said. The wall. But Caroline, I wanted the French word! Caroline bent her head so the hair fell forward on both sides. I suddenly understood that she felt as bad as I did about the whole French thingworse, because it was her paper in Miss Ms hand. I wasnt such a dummie after all! Or, if I was, I wasnt the only one. It was mean of me, but I felt so relieved I almost laughed out loud. Behind us, someone sniggered, and I felt like joining in.

This is not a work of genius, and I think the End needs quite a bit more work. But at least Ive got a whole story on paper now, where a while ago I didnt have any story at all.
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G IT

STEP FOUR: DRAFTING

DO

First draft for imaginative writing


1
Decide on a style
Ask yourself:

7 Should the style be formal or casual? 7 Will I try first person or third person?

2
Hint . . . your outline is a guide, not a police officer.

Write out each card in your outline 7 Start with your one-line summary of the piece. (But remember it wont
appear like this in the final draftyoull jazz it up before then.)

7 The idea is to expand each cardinto a line, a paragraph or several


paragraphs.

7 Within the broad shape of the item on the card, let the idea develop
freely, in whatever way it wants to go (a bit like freewriting).
Hint . . . find a way of making a picture out of it, rather than just summarising it.

7 You might be able to lift sections from the fragments you wrote in
Step One and use them just as they are.

7 New ideas and new details will probably come to you as you write
let them.

3
Hint . . . use people you knowincluding yourself places youve been, things youve experienced.

What if you cant think of how to expand the item?


Ask yourself:

7 Can I turn something abstract or general into something particular or


specific?

7 Can I adapt something from my own life rather than inventing out of
thin air?

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What if you get stuck?


Ask yourself:

7 Am I expecting this first draft to look as polished as a final draft?


(Solution: remind yourself that the point here is just to get the whole thing written out so you can see what youve got. Then you fix it up.)

7 Am I having trouble thinking of the right word, or spelling it, or getting


the sentence to come out the way I want it to? (Solution: for the moment, just put the words down however they come to you.)

7 Is there another card further down the outline that would be easier
to write out? (Solution: leave the bit youre stuck on for the moment, and go straight to the one you feel will be easier.)

7 Am I continually reading over what Ive already written?


(Solution: just plug on until youve written it all out before you go back over it.)

What if the story changes direction? 7 This is commondont panic or give up. 7 Usually it means youve thought of something better than you had
before. This is good!
Hint . . . keep rearranging the cardsyoull probably be able to keep most of the original ideas.

7 Keep writing in the new direction until you can see where its headed.
Then:

7 Go back to the outline and, keeping what you can, make a new outline. 7 Resume writing, using the new outline.
What you have now is a whole piece of writing (congratulations!) something you can now go through and fix up. The next section is about essay writing. If you want to go on with imaginative writing, skip ahead to Step Five (page 135).

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First draft for an essay


Choosing an appropriate style
For an essay, youre trying to persuade or inform your reader. Therefore, youll want to choose a style that makes it as persuasive or informative as possible. You want to sound as if you know what youre talking about, and that you have a considered, logical view of the assignment rather than an emotional response. Even for an essay in which youre taking sides and putting forward an argument, youll be basing it on logic, not emotion. This sense of your authority is best achieved by a fairly formal and impersonal style. You would probably choose:

The voice of quiet authority.

7 reasonably formal words (not pompous ones, though); 7 no slang or colloquial words; 7 no highly emotional or prejudiced language; 7 third-person or passive voice (no I); 7 sentences that are grammatically correct and not overly
simple (but not overly tangled, either). In a first draft, aim for these features if you can, but dont get paralysed by them. Its better to go back and fix them up later (Step Six shows you how) than not to be able to write a first draft at all because youre too worried about getting it perfect.

Building paragraphs
The idea now is to go through the items on your outline and write out each one as a new paragraph. (Some items may turn into more than one paragraph.)
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In general, each paragraph in an essay should have these three elements:

7 a topic sentence that acts like a headline, saying what the


paragraph will be about;

7 a development of this ideawhere you insert the details


about it;

A paragraph is like a tiny story in itself.

7 supporting material in the form of examples, evidence or


quotes. The topic sentence might also show where the paragraph fits with the one before it. You might show this with signal words like First Second On the other hand that guide the reader around your work. (See Step Five for more of these.) Somewhere in each paragraph of the first draft, its a good idea to use the key word from the assignment, so that each idea is firmly shown to be relevant. This will seem very heavy-handed, but when you revise in Step Five, you can decide whether to delete a few uses of the key word to make your argument more subtle.

Using your outline


As you write, you might see ways to improve or add to your outline. Change it, but make sure its still addressing the assignment and moving in a logical way from point to point. Dont let yourself be drawn down paths that arent relevant to the assignment.

Keeping the flow going


Postpone that intimidating GOSGreat Opening Sentence. Instead, use the one-line summary of your basic idea that you put at the head of your outline in Step Three. This sentence wont appear in Sidestep the hardest part.
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A blank space can be a writers best friend!

the final essayits probably pretty dull. Youll think of a more interesting way to start the essay in Step Five. Plunge in and try not to stop until youve roughed-out the whole piece. If you cant think of the right word, put any word you can think of that is close to what you want to convey. If youre desperate, you can always leave a blank. If youve forgotten a date or a name, leave a blank and come back to it later. Get spelling and grammar right if you canbut dont let those things stop you. Dont go back and fix things. Rough the whole thing out now and fix the details later.

Getting stuck
How can I know what I think, until Ive heard myself say it? The Beginning of an essay is often a hard place to start. Its where the central issue of the essay is presentedwhether its a body of information about a subject, or a particular argument. Sometimes its hard to write this before youve written the whole piece. If youre finding this is the case, write the Middle first. Come back later when you can see what youve done and tackle the Beginning. (In Step Five, page 139, theres some information about getting that GOS right, but you dont need it now.)

How to end it
Ending an essay can be almost as hard as starting it. The pressure is on for that Great Final Sentence to bewellgreat. Take the pressure off for now. Just draw together the points youve made in the best final paragraph you can. Youll probably need more than one try before you get it exactly rightdont spend too much time on it now. (Step Five is the time for that.) Dont give this to a reader yet. Its rough, and they might not be able to see past the roughness to the shape underneath. Revise it first (Step Five), otherwise you might be unnecessarily discouraged.

Showing a reader a first draft can be hard on everyone.


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First draft for an essay


Heres my topic again: Every story is a journey towards self-discovery. Using as an example a novel youve read this year, show why you agree or disagree with this statement.

Deciding on a style
Ill aim for a middle-of-the-road essay style: fairly formal and written in the third person.

The GOS factor


Rather than agonise about a GOS, Ill prop my one-line summary of the essay up in front of me so I can keep checking Im still on course as I write: Summary: Agree with statement: TWTWB a journey towards self-discoveryboth good things and bad

Using the outline


Turn back to page 97 to see the outline. Now Im going to go through each card on it, developing each idea into a sentence, a paragraph, or several paragraphs. To make sure I stay on track, Ill frequently use key words from the assignment.

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First, the Beginning

Summary: Agree with statement: TWTWB a journey towards self-discoveryboth good things and bad

This essay will show that Tomorrow, When the War Began shows a journey to selfdiscoverydiscovery of good qualities and bad.

TWTWB a good example

Tomorrow, When the War Began is a good example of a book in which a journey of self-discovery takes place. In the course of the book, the main character, Ellie, goes through several different kinds of self-discovery as she responds to the frightening and violent things that are happening around her.

Dictionary definition

The Macquarie Dictionary defines discovery as discover: To get knowledge of, learn of, or find out; gain sight or knowledge of something previously unseen or unknown.

S-d implies you didnt know before

Self-discovery implies learning something previously unknown about yourself.

S-d can be about good things

Self-discovery can mean learning good things about yourself.

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S-d can be about bad things

You can also discover things about yourself that are not so good.

S-d needs a crisis

Its because of the extreme and dangerous events in the book that Ellie comes to learn new things about herself.

Now the cards for the Middle

e.g. of bravery (p. 82)

In the course of the book, Ellie makes discoveries about good qualities in herself. Her first discovery about herself comes about soon after the teenagers come back from a camping trip and find their families have been locked up in the showground. They need to get close to the showground, and have to come out of the shadows to get close enough to see whats going on. Ellie is not sure she has the guts for this. She says: To come out of the darkness now would be to show courage of a type that Id never had to show before. I had to search my own mind and body to find if there was a new part of me somewhere (p. 81). Finally she brings herself to do so and says: I felt then, and still feel now, that I was transformed by those four stepsI started becoming someone else, a more complicated and capable person... (p. 82).

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STEP FOUR: DRAFTING

e.g. of loveEllie in love (p. 16)

Over the course of the book, Ellie develops an interest in two of the boys in the group and is surprised by her feelingsanother example of positive self-discovery. What shes feeling for Homer and Lee feels like a new aspect of herselfespecially what she feels for Lee: It was all happening too unexpectedlyLee was so intense he scared me, but at the same time I felt something strong when he was aroundI just didnt know what it was.

Parentchild reversal

The parentchild roles are reversed after the invasion, and the young people are the ones left to make decisions. This is another kind of positive self-discovery. This contrasts with before the invasion the book opens with all the young people trying to persuade their parents to let them go on the camping trip. But as the reality sinks in, Ellie wonders how her parents reacted to the invasion. She says, I hoped theyd been sensible (p. 78) more often what a parent thinks about a child.

e.g. of guilt (p. 95)

During the book Ellie discovers some negative qualities in herself. One of the first moments of violence in the book is when Ellie blows up three soldiers with a lawnmower. Telling the others about it, they listen as she says: I began to have troubleIt was hard for me to believe that I had probably just killed three people. It was too big a thing for me to get my mind around. I was so filled with horror. I felt guilty and ashamed about what had happened (p. 95). In fact, she thought she might have changed into a raging monster (p. 161).

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e.g. of emotional confusion (p. 184)

She doesnt like finding both Lee and Homer attractive: I didnt have any plans to become the local slut... (p. 161) and tries to deny her feelings. She wants things to be simple and clearcut, and is disturbed by feeling attracted to both at once. She realises that part of the reason shes disturbed is that she likes to be in control: I guess I like to be in control (p. 183), but shes forced to recognise that when it comes to attraction to someone else, she cant be in control. From thinking she knew herself quite well, she has to admit: Im all confused (p. 184).

Quotecritics

The critics Nimon and Foster point out that the characters have actually gained something by their involvement in the warthe characters realise how they have matured and developed (p. 177). The journey to self-discovery that Ellie takes would not happen unless the traumatic events took place.

QuoteMarsden

On his website, John Marsden says that one of the factors in his mind as he wrote the book was watching an Anzac Day Parade and wondering how todays teenagers would react if they were placed in the same position as their grandparents and great-grandparents...I was fairly sure that given a challenge the teenagers of the nineties would show as much courage and maturity as their predecessors. In Tomorrow, When the War Began, he shows a group of young people coming through adversity and violence to a greater awareness of themselves and what they are capable of.
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Now for the End TWTWB shows a journey to self-discovery

The narrator of Tomorrow, When the War Began, Ellie, goes through a journey of self-discovery over the pages of the book, learning about many aspects of her personality which she was not aware of previously. Many of these are aspects she can be proud of, but one of the disturbing qualities of the book is that Ellie discovers that there are also dark places in her which she has to come to terms with. On balance, she ends up a better person because of her selfdiscoveries.

This is not wonderful, but at least Ive got a complete essay, where an hour ago I had no essay at all. All the things that are wrong with it can be fixed, and thats what Ill do in Steps Five and Six.

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DO

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First draft for an essay


1
Remind yourself of the essay style
Aim to use:

7 formal, non-slangy words; 7 third person or, for certain kinds of essays, passive voice; 7 grammatically correct sentences that arent too simplistic.

Write out each card on your outline 7 Start with your one-line summary of the piece. (But remember it wont
appear like this in the final draftthis is just to give you a run-up. When youve written the essay out, you can come back and think of a better way to start it.)
Hint . . . dont get bogged down thinking of exactly the right words fix them later.

7 The idea is to expand each card into a paragraph (or several


paragraphs).

7 In general, each card should be a new paragraph (this might not be


true of the Beginning and End sections).

Structure each paragraph


Use:

7 a topic sentence which says what the paragraph will be about; 7 a development which gives more details, in a few sentences; 7 evidence which gives examples or other supporting material.

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4
Hint . . . spell out the relevance clearly in this draft. If its too heavyhanded you can lighten it later.

Link each paragraph to the assignment


Ask yourself:

7 How does this help to address the assignment Ive been given? 7 How can I show that it addresses the assignment? 7 How can I connect this paragraph to the one before?

What if you cant think of how to expand on a card?


Ask yourself:

Hint . . . maybe its not really relevant or not important enough to include.

7 Should this idea be in the essay after all? 7 Do I need to find out some more information?
If so, more research might give you what you need.

7 Does this point need some support or proof?


If so, go and look for some. If you cant find anything, consider whether you should still include that point.

What if you get stuck?


Ask yourself:

7 Am I feeling anxious because this doesnt sound like an essay?


(Solution: its not an essay yet. Its only a first draft. Give it time.)

7 Am I having trouble thinking of the right word or right spelling?


(Solution: for the moment, just find the best approximation you can. Fix it up later.)

7 Am I stuck because Ive forgotten a date or name or technical term?


(Solution: leave a blank and look it up when youve finished writing this draft.)

7 Am I stuck because my sentence has become long and tangled up in


itself? (Solution: cut the sentence up into several short, simpler ones.)
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7 Do I keep going back and re-reading what Ive done?


(Solution: just press ahead and get it all down before you go back.)

7 Is there another card further down the outline that would be easier
to write about? (Solution: leapfrog down to that card. Start the writing for it on a new page, though, and dont forget to go back later and fill in the gap.)

Hint . . . remember, this draft is for your eyes only. Just press on!

7 Do I keep losing sight of how each idea is relevant?


(Solution: use key words from the assignment in each topic sentence.)

What if the essay changes direction? 7 This is common, so dont panicalthough a well-planned outline will
help prevent it.

7 Once you can see the new direction, stop writing and go back to the
assignment. Would this new direction be a better way to approach the assignment after all?

7 If you think so, go back to the index cards. Add new ones for the new
ideas, cut out any that no longer fit, and rearrange the rest if you need to.

Hint . . . when youre doing this you may see that in fact the new direction isnt all that different from the first one.

7 Resume writing using the new outline and remind yourself to spend
more time outlining the next time you write an essay.

Recap
What you have now is a whole essay (congratulations!)something you can go through and fix up where necessary. Thats what the last two steps are about.

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STEP FIVE

Revising

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Whats in

STEP FIVE
137 137 139 139 140 140 140 141 142 142 143 150 153 153 153 154 155 155 156 162

About revising
Two-step revising The Great Opening Sentence (GOS) The Great Final Sentence (GFS)

Revising imaginative writing


Cutting Adding Moving Other ways to revise Revising too much Example: Revising imaginative writing Doing it: Revising imaginative writing

Revising an essay
Cutting Adding Moving Other ways to revise Revising too much Example: Revising an essay Doing it: Revising an essay

ABOUT REVISING

137

About revising
Youve now got a piece of writing instead of a blank page and a sinking feeling in your stomach. You know that what youre supposed to do now is revise it. But what does revising really mean? Revising literally means re-seeing. It is about fixing the bigger, structural problems and, if necessary, re-seeing the whole shape of the piece. What this boils down to is finding places where you need to cut something out, places where you should add something, and places where you need to move or rearrange something. Revising doesnt mean fixing surface problems such as grammar and spelling. Thats whats called editing, and well get to that in Step Six.

Revising = re-seeing. Editing = polishing the surface.

Two-step revising
There are two quite different things you have to do when revising. Its tempting to try to do them both at the same time, but its quicker in the long run to do them one by one. The first thing is to find the problems. The second thing is to fix them.

Finding problems
Coming to your own work fresh is one of the hardest things about writing. Somehow, you have to put aside everything you know about the background of the piecewhat you intended, the real situation it might be based onand react to what youve actually got on the paper. If you want to find problems before your readers do, you have to try to read it the way they will. That means reading it straight through without stopping, to get a feeling for the piece as a whole. Read it aloud if you canit will sound quite different and youll hear where things should be changed. Read like a cold-hearted stranger.

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A copy makes it easier to be ruthless.

Dont waste this read-through by stopping to fix things, but read with a pen in your hand. When you come to something that doesnt quite feel right, put a squiggle in the margin beside it, then keep reading. Trust your gut feeling. If you feel that theres something wrongeven if you dont know what it isyour readers will too. Time helps you come to a piece freshly. Even fifteen minutes while you take the dog for a walkhelps you get some distance on what youve written. If youre working on a computer, I strongly recommend that you print it out (double-spaced) before you start revising. Things always look better on the screenmore like a finished product. But right now you dont want them to look any better than they really are you want to find problems, not hide them. The first time you read the piece through, think only about these questions:

7 Have I repeated myself here or waffled on?


Revising = big-picture stuff: cutting adding moving.

7 Is there something missing here? 7 Are parts of this in the wrong order ? Fixing problems
After youve read the piece through, go back to each of the squiggles you made, and work out just why it didnt sound right.

7 If you repeated something, you need to cut. 7 If youre missing something, youll need to add. 7 If parts are in the wrong order, youll need to move things
around. If the problem is something elsespelling or grammar, for exampleleave it for the moment. Youll fix those in Step Six.

ABOUT REVISING

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The Great Opening Sentence (GOS)


Now it is time to replace your summary sentence with a GOS. A GOS should get your reader interested, but not give too much away. A good GOS will often make the reader ask Why?then theyll read on, to find the answer to that question. There are two ways to come up with a GOS. One way is to find it. It may be embedded somewhere in your piece, already writtenread through the piece, auditioning each sentence (or part of it) for a starring role as a GOS. Or you may find it somewhere elsea sentence in another piece of writing may suggest a GOS, or the sentence may be useable as a direct quote. The other way to produce a GOS is to write it. Approach this in the same way as you got ideas in Step Onelet your mind think sideways and dont reject any suggestions. Write down all the openers you can dream up, no matter how hopeless they seem. When youve got a page covered with attempts, circle the ones that seem most promisingor just a good phrase or wordand build on these. Assume that youll write many GOS attempts before you come up with a good one.

The Great Final Sentence (GFS)


Its time to get that right, too. A GFS should leave the reader feeling that all the different threads of the piece have been drawn together in a satisfying way. A piece might end with a powerful final statement, or in a quiet way. In either case, the reader should feel sure this is the endnot just that theres a page missing. As with the GOS, you may find your GFS hiding somewhere in what youve already written, or you may need to write one from scratch. Go about it in the same way as you did for the GOS.

The next section is about imaginative writing. If you want to go on with essay writing, skip ahead to page 153.

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Revising imaginative writing


A piece of imaginative writing is aiming to entertain, or keep the reader interested. As you read through your draft, youll be looking for changes that will make the piece more entertaining: changes that would make the reader laugh more, cry more or want more desperately to know what happened next. Once youve identified the places that dont feel quite right, you have to decide whether to cut, add or move.

Cutting
Here are some things that might need to be cut: Cut to the chase.

7 unnecessary background information (for example, starting the


story too far back, so it begins too slowly);

7 over-long dialogue (less is more with dialogue); 7 dull nuts and boltsgetting the characters from A to B; 7 descriptions of characters that only tell your readers what colour
their eyes are, not who they are;

7 things that have already been said; 7 things that readers have already worked out for themselves; 7 anti-climactic endings that keep going after the audience has left
the show.

Adding
Here are some things that might need to be added:

7 something that you know but havent told the reader (the age or
sex of the narrator, for example);

7 a picture that you have in your minds eye but have only
summarised for the reader (where youve told instead of shown). For example, It was a shabby housea summarycould become Tiles were missing from the roof and the verandah sagged at one end...a picture;

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7 extensions to parts that were just getting interesting; 7 material that balances the story better (for example, if it
takes a long time to set the scene then the main action is rushed);

7 the kind of detail that makes a story come to life: the


personality of characters, the atmosphere of a setting, significant details;

Fill in the blanks.

7 dialogue which can enliven a dull story and speed up a slow


one;

7 a punchier opening and/or endingadding the GOS and the


GFS.

Moving
Here are some things that might need to be moved around:

7 parts of the story that jump backwards and forwards in time


in a confusing way;

7 parts of the story that jump between characters in a


confusing way;

7 dull background information that interrupts a dramatic


moment;

7 essential background information thats given too late; 7 a static opening (for example, a long description) that could
be moved into the body of the story;

The right words in the wrong place.

7 parts where the climax or a secret is given away too soon,


which would be better placed later. Its tempting to talk yourself out of the need for major surgery. On a second reading, you might think Oh, that looks okay after all. Dont be fooled. A first reading is all this piece will get from most readers. If it felt like a problem on the first readthrough, then its a problem.
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No writer likes to have to cut anything. My solution is to put cuts into a folder called Good bits to use later or something like that. Then you can go ahead and be as ruthless as you need to be without feeling youve wasted something.

Other ways to revise


Sometimes, adding, cutting or moving doesnt quite do the job. For imaginative writing, it sometimes helps to rewrite the piece, or a part of it, without looking at your first draft. Skim through it quickly, but then put it away and rewrite it. If it starts to go in a somewhat different direction, let itsee where the new version wants to go. As you continue your revisions you might decide that you were right in an earlier version, and you need to go back to that. In fact, you might end up doing a number of drafts, and your final piece might be a combination of all of them. For this reason, its a good idea to keep a copy of each rewrite you do. If youre working on paper, this just means keeping all copies. If youre working on a computer, make a copy before you start changing it.

If you were right the first time . . .

Revising too much


Youre not being fair to your writing if you havent done three drafts (at least!). Writing students often ask me about the danger of overworking a piecerevising it so much it loses its spontaneity and freshness. Without being rude, I try to tell them that this is just another avoidance technique. (We writers know them all!) Writing nearly always gets better with every draft. Rather than being a chore, revising can be the best bit of writing. Youre not producing something out of thin air any more. You can enjoy tinkering around with it, trying it this way, trying it that way...and with every change you make, the piece will get better.

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Revising imaginative writing


Heres my first draft from Step Four with squiggles added when I did my first read-through. The instructions add, cut and move were added on a second reading.

First draft
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I always felt stupid in French classes. None of the others seemed to be having a problem, though. I just couldnt remember the words, no matter how hard I tried. I hated having to pronounce the words in French. I knew they sounded clunky and awful. The textbook didnt help. All French nouns (persons or things) are considered either masculine or feminine, the noun markers le and la (often referred to as definite articles) indicating the category in a distinction usually known as gender. Wed had three tests so far and Id failed them all. The French teacher, lets call her Miss M, was always very smartly dressed in little suits that were just a bit too tight in the jacket. She always stood like a demonstration of Good Posture. I think she was trying to look French. Wed learned in Science about rats in cages where experimenters gave them electric shocks every time they turned on a light. After a while just the light was enough to make them squeal. There were days when I felt like thatevery Wednesday and Friday morning I woke up with a headache. The le and la business had me confused. I could eventually memorise the fact that maison meant house. It was a bit like mansion. But what about le and la? They both meant the, but le went with nouns that were called masculine and la went with words that were called feminine. I couldnt see anything particularly masculine or feminine about them. One day, I got up courage to ask Miss M about it.

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Miss M, why is leg feminine and foot masculine? I asked. I was already sorry Id asked. I felt a little stirring in the class, as if everyone was thinking, Wow, what a dummie she is. Miss M smiledbut it wasnt a friendly smile, or an understanding smile. To me it looked like a pitying smile. Im afraid thats just the way they are, Louise. You just have to learn them, thats all. She turned away. I wasnt worth bothering with. Now girls, a vocab test! My heart sank. Miss M had this thing about testsshe gave them all the time, and went around the class looking over everyones shoulders as they did them. It was the luck of the draw, but it would be just my luck shed pick up mine. The house, she said. Thehouse. I could remember mansion. That wasnt quite right, but it was close. Maison. That was it. But was it le or la? Wall. Thewall. Wall. Wall. I didnt have a clue. I stared at my blank page, willing a word to come to me. Miss M had got closer. Instead of working her way from front to back she was working her way across the room. She was only two desks away now. As Caroline, the girl next to me, wrote something, I leaned back in my chair. If I leaned back just a bit further, Id be able to see what shed written. I shocked myself. I was deliberately trying to cheat! I had never cheated in my life before. It had never even crossed my mind. But with Miss M getting closer, step by slow step, this was the moment I was going to start. The trouble was, Caroline knew what I was trying to do. She leaned down, closer to the paper. Her hair swung forward and her hand curved around her work. I stared at her shoulder as I heard her pen go again. Scratch. Scratch.

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Miss M was quite close now. I thought she might have seen me trying to copy. I was almost glad. If they caught me cheating at French, maybe theyd let me do some other language that didnt have ridiculous masculines and feminines. Miss M was at the next desk now, looking hard at me. Under cover of a cough, I sort of jerked forward and accidentally-onpurpose nudged Carolines shoulder. Just for a moment, her arm flew back and her hand uncovered the page. My eye took in at a glance what was there: The house The wall Suddenly Miss M was right beside us. She picked up Carolines paper. The house, she said. The wall. But Caroline, I wanted the French word! Caroline bent her head so the hair fell forward on both sides. I suddenly understood that she felt as bad as I did about the whole French thingworse, because it was her paper in Miss Ms hand. I wasnt such a dummie after all! Or, if I was, I wasnt the only one. It was mean of me, but I felt so relieved I almost laughed out loud. Behind us, someone sniggered, and I felt like joining in.

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Changes are shown in bold type.

It was getting so I was frightened of French classes. None of the other kids seemed to be having a problem, but I always felt stupid. Wed had three tests so far and Id failed them all. For a start, I just couldnt remember the words, no matter how hard I tried. Plus, I hated having to pronounce the words in French. I knew they sounded clunky and awful. The French teacher was always very smartly dressed in little suits that were just a bit too tight in the jacket. I think she was trying to look French. Wed learned in Science about rats in cages, where experimenters gave them electric shocks every time they turned on a light. After a while just the light was enough to make them squeal. There were days when I felt like thatevery Wednesday and Friday morning I woke up with a headache. The textbook didnt help. All French nouns (persons or things) are considered either masculine or feminine, the noun markers le and la (often referred to as definite articles) indicating the category in a distinction usually known as gender. This le and la business had me confused. I could eventually memorise the fact that maison meant house. It was a bit like mansion. But what about le and la? They both meant the, but le went with nouns that were called masculine and la went with words that were called feminine. One day, I got up courage to ask Miss Marshall about it. Miss Marshall, why is leg feminine and foot masculine? I asked. I felt a little stirring in the class, as if everyone was thinking, Wow! What a dummie she is. I was already sorry Id asked. Miss Marshall smiledbut it wasnt a friendly smile, or an understanding smile. To me it looked like a pitying smile.
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Im afraid thats just the way they are, Louise. She turned away. I wasnt worth bothering with. Now girls, a vocab test! My heart sank. Miss Marshall had this thing about testsshe gave them all the time, and went around the class looking over everyones shoulders as they did them. The house, she said. Thehouse. I could remember mansion. That wasnt quite right, but it was close. Maison. That was it. But was it le or la? Wall. Thewall. Wall. Wall. I didnt have a clue. I stared at my blank page, willing a word to come to me. Miss Marshall had got closer. Instead of working her way from front to back she was working her way across the room. She was only two desks away now. I could hear Caroline, the girl next to me, writing. I stared at her shoulder as I heard her pen go again. Scratch. Scratch. I realised that, if I leaned back just a bit further, Id be able to see what shed written. I shocked myself. I was deliberately trying to cheat! In my whole life, it had never even crossed my mind to cheat. It had never even crossed my mind. But with Miss Marshall getting closer, step by slow step, this was the moment I was going to start. The trouble was that Caroline knew what I was trying to do. She leaned down, closer to the paper. Her hair swung forward and her hand curved around her work. Miss Marshall was quite close now, looking hard at me. I thought she might have seen me trying to copy and I was almost glad. If they caught me cheating at French, maybe theyd let me do some other language that didnt have ridiculous masculines and feminines. Under cover of a cough, I jerked forward and accidentally-onpurpose nudged Carolines shoulder. Just for a moment, her arm flew back and her hand uncovered the page. My eye took in at a glance what was there:
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The house The wall Suddenly Miss Marshall was right beside us, picking up Carolines paper. The house, she said. The wall. But Caroline, this is in English! Caroline bent her head so the hair fell forward on both sides. I suddenly understood that she felt as bad as I did about the whole French thingworse, because it was her paper in Miss Marshalls hand. I wasnt such a dummie after all! Or, if I was, I wasnt the only one. Behind us, someone sniggered, and I was so relieved I felt like joining in. I didnt exactly plan it, but I found my hand had gone up in the air. Miss Marshall, I dont think I understand any of thisThe words. How you remember them. And the le and la thing. The silence that followed seemed like the longest silence that had ever happened in the whole history of the planet. You want me to explain it all again? I felt relieved. There was nothing to dread anymore, because the worst was actually happening. She looked around at the rest of the class, all sitting as still as a photograph, staring at us. Hands up anyone else who needs to have it explained again. There was another long silence. In different parts of the room, small parts of bodies shifted: a hand moved along a desk here, a shoulder shifted there, someone leaned back over there. A hand rose towards head-level, but it could have been to scratch an ear. Another elbow came up, but perhaps just to free a tight sleeve. Like a time-lapse movie of grass sprouting, hands slowly rose all over the room, until every single girl had her hand in the air. That was when Miss Marshall started to laugh. Wed never seen her laugh before.

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Okay, girls. The first thing you need to know about French is that its a pig of a language to learn. She perched on the side of the desk. Thats where well start.

This still isnt brilliantits a little bit too much the happy endingbut at least its an ending. The whole piece would improve with a few more rewrites, but at least this second draft is a bit better than the first.

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Revising imaginative writing


1
Make a copy of the first draft 7 This is so you can scribble on it to your hearts content. 7 Space it generously so you can read it easily.

2
Hint . . . read it in one go, as your readers will.

Read like a stranger 7 Dont stop and fix things. 7 If something sounds wrong, mark it with a squiggle in the margin. 7 Dont stop to work out why it sounds wrong.

Consider making cuts


On a second reading, ask yourself:

7 Should I cut to the chase and lose some of the introduction?


Hint . . . you can change your mind later, and put them back in!

7 Should I ring down the curtain and cut an anti-climactic ending? 7 Should I cut, or tighten, the dialogue? 7 Should I cut some of the description? 7 Have I already said this? 7 Would the reader have already worked this out? 7 Can I cut any dull nuts and bolts details?

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Consider adding something


Ask yourself:

7 Have I assumed that the readers know something I havent actually


told them?

7 Have I summarised rather than drawn a picture (told rather than


shown)?

7 Is there an interesting bit that is too brief? 7 Is the piece lopsided (for example, with too much description/not
enough action)?

Hint . . . if you add too much now, you can always cut it later.

7 Should I develop characters or atmosphere with more vivid details? 7 Do I need a GOS or a GFS?

Consider moving parts around


Ask yourself:

7 Could I rearrange things to smooth out confusing jumps in time? 7 Could I rearrange parts to prevent confusing movements between
characters?
Hint . . . sometimes a diagram of the piece helps.

7 Have I interrupted a strong dramatic moment with some static


background information?

7 Have I left it too late to tell the readers something they need to know? 7 Have I given away the climax or the secret too early so there are no
surprises for the reader?

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What if you can see a problem but not how to fix it?
Ask yourself:

7 Is it that I cant make myself cut something out?


(Solution: tell yourself a little white lieuse your Good bits Ill use later folder.)

7 Is it that I cant think of anything to add?


(Solutions: Go back to the idea-starters in Step One. Tune into the world around you: the man on the bus next to you might have just the right kind of face for your character; he might be having just the conversation you need for your dialogue. Do more research to find interesting details.)

7 Am I afraid Ill get in a muddle when I start moving things around?


Hint . . . this is why you made a copy, back at the beginning.

(Solution: cut the writing up physically and put it together in a new order with sticky-tape. Primitive, but it worksand why your other copy comes in handy.)

7 Is it that my GOS isnt working?


(Solution: read through the piece, trying out each sentence in your mind as the opening sentence. The GOS may be embedded in the body of the piece. If this doesnt work, youll have to write one. A good GOS is often a very short sentence with a vivid image or idea. Be prepared to have quite a few attempts, and to think laterally.)

The next section is about essay writing. If you want to go on with imaginative writing, skip ahead to Step Six (page 165).

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Revising an essay
An essay will generally be aiming to give the readers information, or persuade them of something. As you read through your draft, youll be looking for changes that will help readers understand the information better or be more convinced by your argument. Once youve found the places that need fixing, you have to decide whether to cut, add or move.

Cutting
Here are some things that might need cutting:

7 paddingtoo little information or argument taking up too


much space;

7 wafflepompous or over-elaborate sentences with no real


purpose;

7 repeated ideas or information; 7 irrelevant material (even if its brilliant or took you hours to
write, it has to address the assignment);

Paddinggreat in an armchair, not in an essay.

7 words, sentences or even whole ideas if the essay is longer


than required.

Adding
Here are some things that might need be added:

7 information that youve assumed but not actually stated


(dont rely on the reader to fill the gaps);

7 a step in your argument that youve left out; 7 details or explanations that show how your ideas relate to
the assignment;
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7 connectors or pointers that smooth the flow between your


ideas; The missing links.

7 the introduction and conclusion: this is the moment to


compose a GOS and a GFS.

Moving
Here are some things that might need to be moved around:

7 information thats not in the most logical order (for example,


Right idea, wrong place. from most important to least important, most distant in time to most recent, or any order that works and is consistent);

7 information thats important but is given to the reader at the


wrong time (for example, background information that should go before the main argument);

7 steps in an argument that are not, in the most logical order


(an argument has to build up step by step, with the evidence for each step, and then a final, convincing statement);

7 something that is good


in itself but interrupts the flow;

7 the arrangement in a twopronged essay (see page 89); you may decide now that you made the wrong choice and need to rearrange some of the parts.

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Other ways to revise


Sometimes cutting, adding or moving doesnt quite do the trick. If thats the case, put the draft away and simply tell someone (real or imaginary) what its about. Then tell them the contents of each paragraph, one by one. (You might start with words like What Im saying here is) Then write down what youve just heard yourself say. Those words will give you a clear, simply-worded version of your essay which you can then embellish with details from your written draft. Back to basics.

Revising too much


Its easy to talk yourself out of the need to make changes. On a second reading some of the problems appear to melt away. Youve got to remember, though, that most pieces dont get a second reading. Nevertheless, as you continue your revisions, you might decide you were right in an earlier version and you need to go back to that. Its a good idea not to delete or throw away any parts of your earlier draftskeep them somewhere, in case. (For computer work, make a copy before you start changing it.) Dont worry about overworking a piece until youve revised it at least three times. An overworked essay is a rare and seldomsighted creature. Strange though it seems, revising can actually be the best part of writing. Youve done the hard workyouve actually created an essay out of thin air. You dont have to do that again. Now you can enjoy tinkering with it, adding here, cutting theregetting the whole thing as good as you can make it. If something felt like a problem on the first reading, it is a problem.

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Revising an essay
Heres the first draft of my essay as it was at the end of Step Four, with the squiggles added when I did my very first read-through. The instructionsadd, cut and movewere added on a second reading.

First draft
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This essay will show that Tomorrow, When the War Began shows a journey to self-discoverydiscovery of good qualities and bad. Tomorrow, When the War Began is a good example of a book in which a journey of self-discovery takes place. In the course of the book, the main character, Ellie, goes through several different kinds of self-discovery as she responds to the frightening and violent things that are happening around her. The Macquarie Dictionary defines discovery as discover: To get knowledge of, learn of, or find out; gain sight or knowledge of something previously unseen or unknown. Self-discovery implies learning something previously unknown about yourself. Self-discovery can mean learning good things about yourself. You can also discover things about yourself that are not so good. Its because of the extreme and dangerous events in the book that Ellie comes to learn new things about herself. In the course of the book, Ellie makes discoveries about good qualities in herself. Her first discovery about herself comes about soon after the teenagers come back from a camping trip and find their families have been locked up in the showground. They need to get close to the showground, and have to come out of the shadows to get close enough to see whats going on. Ellie is not sure she has the guts for this. She says: To come out of the darkness now would be to show courage of a type that Id never had to show before.

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I had to search my own mind and body to find if there was a new part of me somewhere (p. 81). Finally she brings herself to do so and says: I felt then, and still feel now, that I was transformed by those four stepsI started becoming someone else, a more complicated and capable person... (p. 82). Over the course of the book, Ellie develops an interest in two of the boys in the group and is surprised by her feelingsanother example of positive self-discovery: It was all happening too unexpectedlyLee was so intense he scared me, but at the same time I felt something strong when he was aroundI just didnt know what it was (p. 183). What shes feeling for Homer and Lee feels like a new aspect of herselfespecially what she feels for Lee. The parent-child roles are reversed after the invasion, and the young people are the ones left to make decisions. This is another kind of positive self-discovery. This contrasts with before the invasionthe book opens with all the young people trying to persuade their parents to let them go on the camping trip. But as the reality sinks in, Ellie wonders how her parents reacted to the invasion. She says, I hoped theyd been sensible (p. 78)more often what a parent thinks about a child. One of the first moments of violence in the book is when Ellie blows up three soldiers with a lawnmower. Telling the others about it, they listen as she says: I began to have troubleIt was hard for me to believe that I had probably just killed three people. It was too big a thing for me to get my mind aroundI was so filled with horrorI felt guilty and ashamed about what had happened (p. 95). In fact she thought she might have changed into a raging monster (p. 161). She doesnt like finding both Lee and Homer attractive, I didnt have any plans to become the local slut... (p. 161) and tries to deny her feelings. She wants things to be simple and clearcut, and is disturbed by feeling attracted to both at once. She realises that part of the reason shes disturbed is that she likes to be in control:

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I guess I like to be in control (p. 183), but shes forced to recognise that when it comes to attraction to someone else, she cant be in control. From thinking she knew herself quite well, she has to admit: Im all confused (p. 184). The critics Nimon and Foster point out that the characters have actually gained something by their involvement in the warthe characters realise how they have matured and developed (p. 177). The journey to self-discovery that Ellie takes would not happen unless the traumatic events took place. On his website, John Marsden says that one of the factors in his mind as he wrote the book was watching an Anzac Day Parade and wondering how todays teenagers would react if they were placed in the same position as their grandparents and great-grandparents... I was fairly sure that given a challenge the teenagers of the nineties would show as much courage and maturity as their predecessors. In Tomorrow, When the War Began, he shows a group of young people coming through adversity and violence to a greater awareness of themselves and what they are capable of. The narrator of Tomorrow, When the War Began, Ellie, goes through a journey of self-discovery over the pages of the book, learning about many aspects of her personality that she was not aware of previously. Many of these are aspects she can be proud of, but one of the disturbing qualities of the book is that Ellie discoversas most of us would in a similar positionthat there are also dark places in her which she has to come to terms with. On balance, she ends up a better person because of her selfdiscoveries.

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Second draft
Changes are shown in bold type. Self-discovery out of disasterthis is the theme of Tomorrow, When the War Began, by John Marsden. The book is the story of a group of young people reacting to a major crisisthe invasion of Australia by an unnamed foreign power. In the course of this book, the main character, Ellie, goes through several different kinds of self-discovery as she responds to the frightening and violent things that are happening around her.

Self-discovery is a concept with several meanings. The Macquarie Dictionary defines discovery as To get knowledge of, learn of, or find out; gain sight or knowledge of something previously unseen or unknown. Self-discovery, then, implies learning something previously unknown about yourself.
Self-discovery can mean learning good things about yourself, but it can also mean discovering things about yourself that are not so good. One of Ellies first moments of self-discovery is a positive one. It occurs soon after the teenagers come back from a camping trip and find their families have been locked up in the showground. They need to come out of the shadows to get close enough to see whats going on. Ellie is not sure she has the guts for this. She says: To come out of the darkness now would be to show courage of a type that Id never had to show before. I had to search my own mind and body to find if there was a new part of me somewhere (p. 81). Finally she brings herself to do so and says: I felt then, and still feel now, that I was transformed by those four stepsI started becoming someone else, a more complicated and capable person... (p. 82). Another positive self-discovery is her capacity for love. Over the course of the book, Ellie develops an interest in two of the boys in the group and is surprised by her feelings: It was all happening too
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unexpectedlyLee was so intense he scared me, but at the same time I felt something strong when he was aroundI just didnt know what it was (p. 183). Part of Ellies maturation over the course of the book is her new awareness that the parentchild roles are reversed after the . The book opens with all the young people trying to invasion. persuade their cautious parents to let them go on the camping trip. But as the reality of the invasion sinks in, Ellie wonders how her parents reacted when it happened. She says, I hoped they d been sensible (p. 78)more often what a parent thinks about a child. As well as these positive aspects of herself, Ellie also discovers a darker side. One of the first moments of violence in the book is when Ellie blows up three soldiers with a lawnmower. Telling the others about it, she says: I began to have troubleIt was hard for me to believe that I had probably just killed three people. It was too big a thing for me to get my mind around. I was so filled with horror. I felt guilty and ashamed about what had happened (p. 95). In fact she thought she might have changed into a raging monster (p. 161). Another moment of self-discovery that Ellie finds disturbing is the fact that she thinks both Lee and Homer are attractive I didnt have any plans to become the local slut... (p. 161)and tries to deny her feelings. She wants things to be simple and clearcut, and is disturbed by feeling attracted to both at once. From thinking she knew herself quite well, she has to admit: Im all confused (p. 184). During the events of the book, Ellie is forced to get to know herself more deeply than ever before. The critics Nimon and Foster point out that the characters have actually gained something by their involvement in the warthe characters realise how they have matured and developed (p. 177). In this sense, although the events of the book are terrifying, the journey to self-discovery that Ellie takes might not happen unless the traumatic events took place. Tomorrow, When the War Began is a good example of a book that
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provides a journey towards self-discovery for its main character. Ellie goes through a journey of self-discovery over the pages of the book, learning about many aspects of her personality that she can be proud of, but is also forced to recognise the dark places in herself. On his website, John Marsden says that one of the factors in his mind as he wrote the book was watching an Anzac Day Parade and wondering how todays teenagers would react if they were placed in the same position as their grandparents and great-grandparents... I was fairly sure that given a challenge the teenagers of the nineties would show as much courage and maturity as their predecessors. In Tomorrow, When the War Began, he shows a group of young people coming through adversity and violence to a greater awareness of themselves and what they are capable of.

This is still only a draftI could revise it several more times and improve it quite a bit. However, even two drafts are better than one.

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Revising an essay
1
Make a copy of the first draft 7 This is so you can scribble on this one to your hearts content. 7 Space it generouslythen you can read it easily.

2
Hint . . . read it in one go, as your readers will.

Read it through pretending that someone else wrote it 7 Dont stop and fix things. 7 If something sounds wrong, just mark it with a squiggle on this first
reading.

7 Dont stop to work out why it sounds wrong.

Consider making cuts


Ask yourself:

7 Is this essay longer than required? 7 Have I padded it to make it up to length? 7 Have I waffled on pompously and got tangled up in long, complex
sentences?

7 Have I repeated myself? 7 Have I included material that doesnt connect to the assignment?
If so, write CUT against each squiggle that flags repetition, long-windedness or irrelevance.

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Consider adding something


Ask yourself:
Hint . . . if you add too much, you can always take it out again later!

7 Have I assumed that my readers know something I havent actually said? 7 Have I left out a step in my argument? 7 Have I left out an important piece of information? 7 Have I failed to show how something is relevant to the topic? 7 Have I got ideas that seem disconnected, and need to be joined? 7 Have I failed to give supporting material for a point Ive made? 7 Do I need to add a GOS or a GFS?
If so, write ADD.

Consider moving parts around


Ask yourself:
Hint . . . sometimes a diagram helps.

7 Is this information relevant, but not in a logical sequence? 7 Is this idea relevant, but not a step in this particular argument? 7 Have I introduced information at the wrong time (too early, before its
relevance can be shown: too late, after the reader needed it)?

7 For a two-pronged essay, have I chosen the best way of arranging the
material (see page 89)? Write MOVE against the parts that need it.

What if you can see a problem but not how to fix it?
Ask yourself:

7 Is it that I cant bring myself to cut something out?


(Solution: tell yourself a little white lie: youll find a place for it in a minute.)

7 Is it that I cant think of anything to add?


(Solution: go back to the idea-starters in Step One, especially research. Also, go back to the assignment and read it again.)

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Hint . . . this is why you made a copy before you started.

7 Am I afraid Ill get into a worse muddle when I move things around?
(Solution: cut the essay up, physically, and spread the bits out on the table. Then sticky-tape the pieces together in the new order. Primitive, but it works!)

7 Are the ideas in the right order but still sound jerky?
(Solution: use connecting phrases such as On the other hand, In addition.)

7 Is it that I cant think of a GOS?


(Solutions: look for a brief, punchy quote to open with; open with a question; open with a dramatic contrast or contradiction.)

7 Is it that I cant think of a GFS?


(Solutions: If you havent done so for a GOS, end with a strong quote; refer back to the assignmentnot by quoting the whole thing, but by using one or two words from it.)

Be prepared to have several attempts at a GOS and a GFS.

Recap
Your piece is in pretty good shape now. All it needs is a final polish the last step!

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Editing

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Whats in

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About editing
What is editing, exactly? Why edit? The read-through

167 167 168


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Editing imaginative writing


Editing for style Editing for grammar Editing for presentation Example: Editing imaginative writing Doing it: Editing imaginative writing

169 170 173 175 176


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Editing an essay
Editing for style Editing for grammar Editing for presentation Example: Editing an essay Doing it: Editing an essay

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ABOUT EDITING

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About editing
If you were snatched away right now by aliens and never seen again, youd still get a reasonable mark for your writing piece. Its got plenty of ideas, theyre in the right order, and the whole thing flows without gaps or bulges. However, in the event of an alien abduction it would be comforting to know that youd left a really superior piece of writing behind. The way to achieve this is through the last step of the writing process: editing.

What is editing, exactly?


Basically editing means making your piece as reader-friendly as possible by making the sentences flow in a clear, easy-to-read way. It also means bringing your piece of writing into line with accepted ways of using English: using the appropriate grammar for the purposes of the piece, appropriate punctuation and spelling, and appropriate paragraphing. The final polish.

Why edit?
Ive used the word appropriate rather than correct because language is a living, changing thing and the idea of it being right or wrong is less important than whether it suits its purpose . . . theres nothing wrong with those thongs, but maybe not for a job interview! Its all about being practical. If you use spellings that arent the usual ones, or grammar that isnt what weve come to accept as right, it will distract your readers. Instead of thinking what wonderful ideas this person has, theyll think this person cant spell. It will break the trance of reading. Re-invent spelling and grammar by all means . . . but not in an assignment!

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Readers can be irritated and troubled by unconventional usage (Ive had dozens of letters from readers about the fact that I dont use inverted commas around dialogue in some of my novels). Its your right to make up new ways to do things, but expect to pay a price for it. In the case of a school essay, this price might be a lower mark. (Like everything else about the English language, there are exceptions to this. Imaginative writing often plays fast and loose with accepted ways of using English in order to achieve a particular effect.)

The read-through
As with revising, the first thing to do is to read the piece all the way through, looking for problems. Make a note of where you think there are problems, but dont stop to fix them. Once youve found them all, you can go back and take your time fixing each one. If theres even the slightest feeling in the back of your mind that something might not be quite right, dont try to talk yourself out of that feeling. As writers, we all want our piece to be perfect, so we have a tendency to read it as if it is perfect, with a selective blindness for all its problems. For that reason, this is a good moment to ask someone else to look at it for you. To make a piece as user-friendly as possible, you need to check the piece for style, grammar and presentation.

If you think something might be wrong . . . then it probably is.

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Editing for style
As you wrote your imaginative writing piece, you may have found you were changing style or felt uncomfortable with the style youd chosen. And there were probably times when you were not able to think of the perfect word or image. This is normal and a sign that you had your priorities right: first get the basic shape of the piece right, then worry about getting every word perfect. Now, however, is the moment to think of that exactly right word, and to check that your style is appropriate for its purpose and has been applied consistently.

Questions to ask yourself about style


Is this the most effective style for this piece? You might take into account the content of the piece (a funny, light-hearted piece will have a different style from a serious or emotionally intense piece). You might also think again about the likely readers of your piece, and which style will impress them most: youd probably choose a different style for fellow students, a teacher you know well or an anonymous examiner whos never met you. Have I stuck consistently to the style I chose? Writing that slides around between formal and informal, slangy and pompous, can make the reader feel as if theyre trying to listen to three different people all talking at once. Sometimes you can build up a sensitive or funny moment in a story and then, with a phrase in the wrong style, spoil the effect completely.

Its not too late to change style.

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Does the writing give the reader a smooth ride or a bumpy one? Sometimes the style of a particular sentence can be appropriate and consistent, but it can just sound awkward or be hard to follow. Sometimes individual sentences are okay, but the joins between them need smoothing out with connecting words or phrases. Decisions about style for a piece of imaginative writing are never as clearcut as right and wrong. Theres a subjective element here and thats why you might do several draftsthe best way to decide about style is to try a few. A choice of style might seem right in theory, but just sound wrong on the page. To recap on what style means and how to choose the best one for your piece, go back to Step Four (page 103).

Try reading the piece aloud. If you stumble over something, change it.

Editing for grammar


Grammar is a big subject, and for a proper understanding of it, I strongly suggest you get a specialised book about it. Read this brief summary below in conjunction with the User-friendly grammar section at the end of this book.

Questions to ask about grammar


Is this really a complete sentence? If not, its a sentence fragment (see page 196). Have I joined two complete sentences together with only a comma between them? If you have, its a run-on sentence (aka comma splice or fused sentence, see page 197). Do my subjects agree with my verbs?
I

A computer grammar check could be helpful.

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This is called subjectverb agreement (see page 198).


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Have I changed tense or person without meaning to? This is where the writing starts in one tense but suddenly shifts into another tense (I do this to I did this, for example) or starts being about he and slides into I somewhere along the line (see page 199). Is one bit of my sentence somehow attached to the wrong thing? It could be a case of a dangling modifiersounds weird, and it is (see page 200). Have I put enough commas in? Or too many? A commas basic purpose in life is to indicate to the reader that there should be a slight pause in the sentence (see page 201). Have I put apostrophes in the right places? Apostrophes are those little misplaced raised commas that occur in the middle of some words such as theyre or its (see page 202). If Ive used colons and semicolons, have I used them properly? A colon is : and a semicolon is ; (see page 203). If Ive used inverted commas and brackets, have I used them properly? You use inverted commasquote markswhen youre quoting someone elses words exactly. This includes dialogue in imaginative writing and quotes in essays (see page 204).

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Have I put paragraph breaks in the best places? The basic rule for paragraphs is that every new idea should have a new paragraph. With imaginative writing this is often not clearcutideas tend to flow into each other. Follow the basic rule, and when you feel the ideas are taking a breath, or turning a corner, make a new paragraph. In any case, dont let your paragraphs get too long. A new paragraph gives your reader a chance to catch up with you. As a very rough rule of thumb, if a paragraph is more than about eight lines long (typed), try to find a place to cut into it and make it into two separate paragraphs. It will lighten the texture of your writing and make it easier on your readers. Have I trusted the computer grammar checker too much? Computer grammar checkers are useful, particularly to identify problems you mightnt have recognised. Theyre good at finding run-on sentences (they might call them comma splices) and sentence fragments. However, you cant just apply their suggestions in every case. For a start, computer grammar checkers seem to hate the passive voicebut the passive voice is useful in essays and other Image Not Available forms of non-fiction writing. Also, the computer doesnt know what the purpose of your piece is, or who youre writing it forso its suggestion may not be the best in your particular case. Use the grammar checker, but use your own judgement, too.

Computer grammar checks need to be taken with a pinch of salt.

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Editing for presentation


Presentation probably shouldnt matter, but lets face it, it does. Even if a story is inventive and imaginative and well written, if its full of spelling mistakes and looks generally messy its reader will tend to be prejudiced against it.

Questions to ask about presentation


Is my spelling correct? A spell checker on your computer will find most problems, but not all. In particular, it wont pick up spelling errors such as their for there, since both of these are correct spellings which one is right depends on the meaning of the whole sentence. It may also suggest US spellings, which arent always the same as Australian ones, and its not very good on proper names. If youre not using a computer, go through your writing very carefully for spelling. If you have even the faintest shadow of doubt about the spelling of a word, look it up in a dictionary. There are certain words that all of us find hardwords like accommodation, necessary, disappointso if you get to a word that you know is often a problem, double-check it even if you think its right. Look also for consistency. Some words have two acceptable spellingsstick to the same spelling throughout your piece. Have I got the best layout for my piece? Layout means the way the text is arranged on the page. Layout makes a big psychological difference to your reader. A piece thats crammed tightly on the page with no space anywhere and few paragraphs breaks can look dense and uninviting. A piece thats irregularwith different spacing in different parts, different amounts of indentation, or different spacing between the lines looks jerky and unsettling.
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Teachers love writing comments and will be happier if you give them somewhere to do it.

Help your readers double space your work!

Your layout should allow plenty of air around the textat least 1.5-centimetre margins all round, with more on the lefthand margin. You should leave some space between the lines, toonot only for comments by the teacher, but also because your text is easier on the eye if theres good separation between the lines. Use a line-and-a-half space or double space on a computer. It makes sense to have your piece as legible as possible. If youre handwriting your piece, take the time to form the letters clearly and make punctuation fully visible. Dont make your writing too small or too sloping. On a computer, use a clear, plain font (for example, New York or Times New Roman) avoid fancy fonts. Use 10- or 12-point type size, no bigger or smaller. Does this title help the reader? The right title can be a big help to a piece of imaginative writing. Ideally, a title will be intriguingteasing the reader to know what its about. The ideal title should also carry within it the basic meaning of the whole piece. An overly obscure title can sound as if youre trying too hard. On the other hand you dont want to give away the whole story in the title. A time-honoured way to find a title is to go through the piece, looking for a significant word or phrase that will stand alone as a title. Another way, if youre as desperate as I often become trying to think of a good title, is to flip through books of poetry, or the lyrics of songs. They often have well-formed little phrases that resonate with meaning.

The perfect title often comes when youve stopped trying to find it.

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Editing imaginative writing


This is the first part of my imaginative writing piece with grammar and other mistakes added. (I did not include these mistakes in the earlier steps because they would have been distracting.)

Second draft
It was getting so I was frightened of French classes. None of the other kids seemed to be having a problem, but I always felt stupid, wed had three tests so far and Id failed them all. Punctuation For a start, I just couldnt remember the words no matter how hard I tried. Plus, I hated having to pronounce the words in french, I knew they sounded clunky and awful. Tense change The French teacher lets call her Miss M is always very smartly dressed in little suites. Standing like a demonstration of Good Posture. Trying to look French her jacket was always just a bit too tight. Wed learned in Science about rats in cages where experimenters gave them Dangling electric shocks every time they turned on a light. After a while just the light modifier was enough to make them squeel. Their were days when I felt like thatevery Wenesday and Friday morning I woke up with a headache. The textbook didnt help. All French nouns (persons or things) are considered either masculine or feminine, the noun markers le and la (often referred to as definite articles) indicating the category in a distinction usually known as gender. This is le and la business had me confused. I could eventually memorise the fact that maison meant house. A bit like mansion. But what about le and la? They both meant the, but le went with nouns that were called masculine and la went with words that were called feminine. Punctuation One day, I got up courage to ask Miss Marshall about it. Miss Marshall, why is leg feminine and foot masculine? I asked. I felt a little stirring in the class, everyone was thinking, Wow, what a Comma dummie she is. Already I was sorry Id asked. Miss Marshall smiled but it wasnt a friendly smile, or an understanding smile. To me it looked like a pitying smile. Im afraid there just made that way Louise.
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Run-on sentence

Run-on sentence Comma

Spelling Sentence fragment Spelling

Punctuation Run-on sentence

Spelling

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Editing imaginative writing


1
Read the piece through 7 Dont stop to fix mistakes, just mark them.

Is the style okay? 7 Have I chosen the style thats most entertaining for this piece?
(Think again about what style will most effectively engage the readers feelings.)

Hint . . . if youre aware of the style, chances are it needs some work.

7 Have I chosen particular words that jar with this style?


(Check for over-formal words in an otherwise casual style or the other way around.)

7 Have I chosen to construct sentences in a way that jars with the


style? (Be aware of complex literary sentences in a conversational style.)

Is the grammar okay?


Ask yourself:

7 Have I written any sentence fragments? 7 Have I written any run-on sentences?
More information on all these grammar points can be found on page 196.

7 Do my subjects agree with my verbs? 7 Have I changed tense or person? 7 Have I dangled any modifiers? 7 Have I shown the pause I intended by using commas? 7 Have I used apostrophes in the right places? 7 Have I used colons or semicolons correctly? 7 Have I used inverted commas or brackets correctly? 7 Are there plenty of paragraph breaks and are they in the most
natural places?

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Is the presentation okay?


Ask yourself:

7 Have I checked spellings?


(Be careful of sound-alikes such as their/there/theyre.)

7 Is my layout orderly and well-spaced? 7 Have I found the best title for my piece?

Hint . . . this is a good moment to try it on a new reader.

Stand back and shake yourself by the hand. Your piece of writing is finished!

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Editing an essay
Editing for style
You made a decision about style back at the start of Step Four, but in the heat of the moment as you wrote your draft, style might have slipped or changed. You might have forgotten a technical term, or been unable to think of the proper word for something, or you might have got your thoughts tangled up in long complicated sentences. Thats finethat shows you had your priorities right: get the broad shape of the essay right first, not get bogged down in detail. But now the moment has come to get to grips with all those details of style. The main point about style in an essay is that it should always be the servant of meaning. In an essay, a style that draws attention to itself has failed. The aim of an essay is to get your ideas across strongly and clearlythe style is just the vehicle to convey the ideas.

Changing style often only takes a few small amendments. Its not too late.

Questions to ask about style


Have I used the style most appropriate to an essay? An essay should be written in a reasonably formal style. It should be in the third person or the passive voice. I is generally not appropriate. Have I chosen the most appropriate words for this style? To achieve a formal style, individual words shouldnt be slangy or too casual. Youll be expected to use the proper technical terms where appropriate. On the other hand, your essay shouldnt be overloaded with pompous or obscure words. If a simple word does the job, use it.
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Does the writing give the reader a smooth ride or a bumpy one? In a first draft its very easy to get yourself into long complicated sentences containing too many ideas. This is the time to simplify them. Even if a long complicated sentence is grammatically correct, its generally awkward and hard to read. Try it out loudif its hard to get it right, or if it sounds clunky, rewrite it. Its much better to have two or three straightforward sentences than a big baggy monster. On the other hand, the See Spot run variety of sentence gets pretty mind-numbing after a while. If you have too many short, choppy sentences you may need to look at ways of connecting some of them, using words such as although, in addition, on the other hand If all the sentences are constructed exactly the same way, you should look at ways of varying them. Go back to Step Four to remind yourself about style.

Read the essay aloud. If you stumble over something, change it!

Editing for grammar


Imaginative writing may have a little latitude with grammar, but an essay has nonethe grammar just has to be right. Grammar is a big subject, and for a proper understanding of it, I strongly suggest you get a specialised book on the subject. This is a quick checklist of some of the most common grammatical problems. Youll find a little more detail in the User-friendly grammar section on page 196.

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Questions to ask about grammar


Is this really a complete sentence? A computer grammar check could be useful . . . If not, its a sentence fragment (see page 196). Have I joined two complete sentences with only a comma between them? If you have, its a run-on sentence (aka comma splice or fused sentence) (see page 197). Do my subjects agree with my verbs? This is called subjectverb agreement (see page 198). Have I changed tense or person without meaning to? This is where the writing starts in one tense but suddenly shifts into another tense (they do to they did, for example) or starts being about he and slides into I somewhere along the line. In an essay, you can decide whether to use the past tense or the presentwhichever sounds most natural for your assignment. In the essay Tomorrow, When the War Began, Ive used the present tense to describe the actions in the book. This is usual for an essay about literaturetreating the story as if its happening in the present. A history essay would normally be in the past tense (naturally enough). Is one bit of my sentence somehow attached to the wrong thing? This may be a case of dangling modifiersounds weird, and it is (see page 200).

A human reader might be, too.

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Have I put enough commas in? Or too many? A commas basic purpose in life is to indicate to the reader that there should be a slight pause in the sentence. This might be to separate the items in a list or to show which parts of a sentence belong together which as you can see if you took the commas out of this sentence might otherwise be a problem (see page 200). Have I put apostrophes in the right places? Apostrophes are those little misplaced raised commas that occur in the middle of some words such as theyre or its (see page 201). If Ive used colons and semicolons, have I used them properly? A colon is : and a semicolon is ; (see page 203). If Ive used inverted commas and brackets, have I used them properly? You use inverted commasquote marks when youre quoting someone elses words exactly. You also use them to talk about a word, not its meaning, as in the word yellow begins with y, or if you use a word in an unusual sense (see page 203). Have I put paragraph breaks in the best places? The basic rule for paragraphs is that every new idea should have a new paragraph. If an idea is quite long, you might need to break it up into more than one paragraph. To do this, youll need to find the sub-idea, or a sense of the idea changing directionthat will be the point at which to make a paragraph break. As a very rough rule-of-thumb, if a paragraph is more than about eight lines long (typed), make it into two separate paragraphs. It will lighten the texture of your writing and make it easier on your readers.
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Have I trusted the computer grammar checker too much? Computer grammar checkers are useful, particularly to identify problems you mightnt have recognised. Theyre good at finding run-on sentences (they might call them comma splices) and sentence fragments. However, you cant just apply their suggestions in every case. For a start, computer grammar checkers seem to hate the passive voicebut the passive voice is useful in essays and other forms of non-fiction writing. Also, the computer doesnt know what the purpose of your piece is, or who youre writing it forso its suggestion may not be the best in your particular case. Use the grammar checker, but use your own judgement, too.

Computer grammar checks have to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Editing for presentation


Presentation probably shouldnt matter, but lets face it, it does. No matter how well-researched and clearly argued your essay is, it (and your mark) will be undermined by spelling mistakes, messy-looking layout or illegible handwriting.

Questions to ask about presentation


Is my spelling correct? Youd think that using a computer spell checker would solve all spelling problems. However, if an incorrect spelling is in fact a legitimate word, the computer wont always pick it up as a mistake. Be aware, also, that computer spell checkers may also suggest US spellings, which arent always the same as Australian ones, and they are very bad at names of people and places. If youre not using a computer, go through your writing very carefully for spelling. If you have even the faintest shadow of doubt

Use the computer spell check, but use your brain, too!

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about the spelling of a word, look it up in a dictionary. There are certain words that all of us find hardwords like accommodation, necessary, disappointso if you get to a word that you know is often a problem, double-check it even if you think its right. Another reader can also be a big help in picking up spelling errors. If there are two perfectly good spellings of a word, choose one and use it consistently. Does my layout make my piece look good? Layout means the way the text is arranged on the page. Layout makes a huge psychological difference to your reader. A piece thats crammed tightly on the page with no space anywhere and few paragraph breaks can look dense and uninviting. A piece thats irregulardifferent spacing on different parts, different amounts of indentation or different spacing between the lineslooks jerky and unsettling. Your layout should allow plenty of air around the text, with generous margins all round. You should leave some space between the lines, toonot only for comments by the teacher, but also because your text is easier on the eye if theres good separation between the lines. Its just human nature to prefer something pleasant to deal with andcontrary to some opinionsteachers are, in fact, human. So make sure your piece of writing is as legible as you can make it. If its handwritten, write as clearly as you can and dont let the writing get too small or too sloping. On a computer, stick to one of the standard text fonts (New York or Times New Roman, for example). Dont use fancy fonts. Use 10- or 12-point type size. If your piece isnt long enough, the teacher wont be fooled by 16point type. Human, yes. Entirely stupidnot usually.

Another reader might pick up spelling errors and typos.

Teachers love writing comments and will be happier if you give them somewhere to do it.

Help your readers double space your work.

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STEP SIX: EDITING

Does my title help the reader enter the essay? Your essay may have a title: The Water Cycle. Or it may have a heading: Term 2 assignment: What Were the Causes of World War I?. Whatever the title is, it should tell the reader exactly what the writing task is. Have I acknowledged other peoples contributions to my essay? Most essay writers use other peoples work to some extent. Sometimes they use it as background reading. Sometimes they specifically use information someone else has gathered or insights someone else has had. Sometimes they actually quote someone elses words. Its very important to acknowledge this help, and say exactly where it comes from. This is partly simple gratitude, but it also means that other people can go and check your sources, to find out if, as you claim in your essay, Einstein really did say the earth was flat. You should acknowledge other peoples work in two ways: first, in a bibliography at the end of your essay. This is just a list of all the sources of information that youve used. List them alphabetically by authors surname, with information in this order: author, title, publisher and place and date of publication (or the address of the website). As well as appearing in the bibliography, sources that youve used in a direct way should also be acknowledged in the essay itselffor example, As Bloggs points out, Einstein was not always right. The titles of any books that you refer to should be in italics (if youre using a computer) or underlined (if youre writing by hand).

Using other peoples work without crediting them is plagiarism youll be heavily penalised.

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Editing an essay
This is the first part of my essay with some grammar and spelling problems added. I did not include them in earlier steps because they would have been distracting.

Second draft
Self-discovery out of disasterthis is the theme of Tomorrow, When the War Began, by John Marsden. Reacting to a major crisis, the invasion of Australia by an unnamed foreign power, the book is the story of a group of young people. It may not be true that all stories show a journey to self-discovery, in the course of this book the main character Ellie goes through several different kinds of self-discovery. Responding to the frightening and violent things that are happening around her. Self-discovery is a concept with several meanings, the Macquarie dictionary defines discovery as To get knowledge of, learn of, or find out; gain sight or knowledge of something previously unseen or unknown. Selfdiscovery then implies learning something previously unknown about yourself. Self-discovery can mean learning good things about yourself, it can also mean discovering things about yourself that are not so good. One of Ellies first moments of self-discovery is a positive one. It occurs soon after the teenagers come back from a camping trip and find their families have been locked up in the showground, they need to come out of the shadows to get close enough to see whats going on. Ellie is not sure she has the guts for this. She says: To come out of the darkness now would be to show courage of a type that Id never had to show before. I had to search my own mind and body to find if there was a new part of me somewhere (p. 81). Finally she brings herself to do so and says, I felt then, and still feel now, that I was transformed by those four stepsI started becoming someone else, a more complicated and capable person... (p. 82). Another positive self-discovery is her capacity for love. Developing an interest in two of the boys in the group the book shows Ellie being surprised by her feelings: It was all happening so unexpectedlyLee was so intense he scared me, but at the same time I felt something strong when he was around I first didnt know what it was (p. 183).

Punctuation

Dangling modifier

Run-on sentence

Sentence fragment Run-on sentence Run-on sentence

Comma

Comma Use

Inappropriate word choice

Dangling modifier

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DO

Editing an essay
1
Read the piece through 7 Dont stop to fix mistakes, just mark them.

Is the style okay?


Ask yourself:

7 Have I chosen the style thats most appropriate for an essay?


(Remember, an essay is aiming to persuade or inform.)
Hint . . . if youre aware of the style, chances are it needs some work.

7 Have I chosen particular words that jar with this style?


(Check for over-casual, conversational words or ordinary words where a technical one would be more appropriate.)

7 Have I chosen to construct sentences in a way that jars with the


style? (Look for short, simplistic sentences, also for needlessly pretentious ones.)

3
More information on all these grammar points is found on page 196.

Is the grammar okay?


Ask yourself:

7 Have I written any sentence fragments? 7 Have I written any run-on sentences? 7 Do my subjects agree with my verbs? 7 Have I changed tense or person? 7 Have I dangled any modifiers? 7 Have I shown the pause I intended by using commas? 7 Have I used apostrophes in the right places? 7 Have I used colons or semicolons correctly? 7 Have I used inverted commas or brackets correctly? 7 Are there plenty of paragraph breaks, and are they in the most

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Is the presentation okay?


Ask yourself:

7 Have I checked spellings? (Be careful of sound-alikes such as their/there/


theyre.)

7 Is my layout orderly and well spaced? 7 Have I found the best title for my piece, which prepares the reader
for the essay?

Hint . . . this is a good moment to try it on a new reader.

7 Have I acknowledged sources of ideas and information in a


bibliography?

Stand back and shake yourself by the hand. Your piece of writing is finished!

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Other useful stuff


Applying the six steps to different types of writing
At the beginning of this book I made the ambitious claim that the Six Steps method can be applied to any kind of writing you might be asked to do. In this section, Ill support that claim.

Many kinds of writing


So far, weve looked in detail at imaginative writing pieces and essays. But theres no end to the kinds of writing youll be expected to know about or produce for school, university, work, interests or pleasure. Here are some of the most common:

7 procedures; 7 reports; 7 recounts;


Then there are:

7 personal responses; 7 biographies; 7 autobiographies.


Not to mention: the back of the soup tin and the box the toothpaste came in . . .

7 letters; 7 speeches; 7 newsletters; 7 job applications; 7 references;

7 sales reports; 7 overhead or datashow


presentations;

7 websites; 7 submissions.

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One way to do it
It would be impossible to memorise the formula for every kind of writing in the world. But if you memorise the Six Steps, you can adapt them to even the most out-of-the-ordinary writing job you might have to do.

Step One: Getting ideas


No matter what kind of writing you have to do, you should start by gathering together all the things you can think of about the subject. The simplest way to do this is just to list them straight down the page, in whatever order they come to you. If you think you can do this in your head, thats fine. But that means your brain has to remember what youve already thought of, at the same time as thinking up new ideas. Personally, my brain works better when it only has to do one thing at a time.

Step Two: Choosing


When you look back over it, this list will probably contain a few things that you wont use after all. Perhaps theyre not relevant, perhaps theyre not polite, perhaps theyre confidential. Whatever the reason, you can cross them off your list.

Step Three: Outlining


Every piece of writing is like a journey. It starts at the Beginning, travels along through the Middle, and Ends up at its destination. It doesnt just hop around randomlyits a sequence, from A through B to C. Step Three is where you put your ideas into a sequence. The sequence is more or less the same for all kinds of writing.

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Beginning Every piece of writing has some type of an introduction: Reader, Id like you to meet my piece of writing. The Beginning might be:
Congratulations on purchasing the Whizz-bang Toaster. Please take a moment to review its features.

Or:
Dear Auntie May, Im sorry its been so long since I wrote to you, but I want to thank you for sending me a birthday present.

Or:
Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to the Fourth Annual General meeting of the WoopWoop Pigeon-Fanciers Society. Tonight Id like to talk to you about the pigeon as a foodstuff.

Or:
Dear Sir / Madam, I would like to apply for the position of Chief BottleWasher with your firm. I feel I am ideally suited to this position because of my good track record in washing bottles over the last few years.

You get the idea. Whatever form the Beginning takes, it sets you up to get on with the Middle. Middle The Middle is the whole reason the piece of writing exists. Its where you tell the reader whatever it is you want them to hear. The Middle usually contains a number of different ideasso you have to work out some kind of easy-to-follow sequence for these. The Middle might be the instructions for the Whizz-bang Toaster, from steps one to ten. It might be telling Auntie May how much you like her present,

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how youve always wanted one just like it, and what you plan to do with it in the holidays. It might be telling your audience how to make Pigeon Pie, Pigeonburger or Pigeon Pavlova. It might be the details of all the bottle-washing youve ever done, plus your experience in washing pots, pans, knives and forks. When youve said everything you want to say, the end of your journey is in sight. End At the end of a journey you slow down, look around you, work out where you are. Its the same with writing. In one way or another, you wind down, and leave your reader gently rather than abruptly. An End might be:
If you experience problems with your Whizz-bang Toaster, call us toll-free on 1800 000 000.

Or:
Well, thats it for now. Thanks again for the great present and take care. Best wishes, Sylvester.

Or:
If youd like to buy my book, A Thousand Ways to Cook a

Pigeon, Ill be selling copies at the table over there in a few


minutes. Thank you for your attention, ladies and gentlemen, and good pigeon-fancying.

Or:
As youll see from the above, my qualifications for the job of Chief Bottle-Washer are excellent. I feel sure I have a great deal to offer your firm. Please let me know if I can give you any further information. Yours faithfully, Sylvester Smith.

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Some kinds of writing dont have much of an End (newspaper reports, for example). However, in that case, the Middle is arranged in such a way as to give a tapering-away feeling to the end (usually, by arranging the information in the piece from the most important or dramatic to the least important). Just about every kind of writing needs something to indicate to the reader that the piece has actually come to an end, not just that a page is missing.

Step Four: Writing


This is where you follow your Beginning, Middle, End outline of ideas and flesh them out to give yourself a first draft.

Step Five: Revising


You go through your first draft looking for big structural problemsplaces where youve left something out, places where youve put too much in, or places where things are in the wrong order.

Step Six: Editing


You go through the piece again, looking for all those little niggly things that give a piece of writing a bad namegrammar and spelling mistakes, messy layout and presentation that makes the piece hard to read.

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Types of texts at a glance


Text type Narrative Purpose To tell a story Structure Orientation (who, where, when) Complication (need for action) Evaluation (response by characters) Resolution Orientation (who, where, when) Record of events Reorientation (reason for recount) General statement Descriptions (of different aspects of the topic) Context (background to art work plus a synopsis) Description (of characters, key events, style) Judgement (balance of strengths and weaknesses) Background (general information about the period) Record of events (in sequence) Evaluation (of the significance of the period) Aim (scientific purpose) Record of events (what was done) Results (what happened) Conclusion (what was found, even if nothing) Thesis Arguments supporting thesis Restatement of thesis Introduction of issue (both sides) Arguments for one side Arguments for other side Judgement

Recount

To tell about a series of events happening one after the other

Report

To give information

Review

To assess the value of an art work

Historical recount/ account

To write about events of the past

Procedural recount

To record a procedure

Exposition

To argue for a point of view

Discussion

To discuss both sides of an argument

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Tense Past or present

Voice First or third person

Style Formal or casual

Past

First or third person

Formal or casual

Past or present

Third person

Formal

Present

First or third person

Formal or casual

Past

Third person

Formal

Past

First person or passive voice

Formal

Present

Third person

Formal

Present

Third person

Formal

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User-friendly grammar
Here are some common grammar problems mentioned in Step Six and some advice on how to fix them.

Sentence fragments
A sentence fragment is a sentence thats not really complete. When we talk, we often use sentence fragments because we can usually work out whats meant if a bit is left off. But in written English particularly essay writingtheyre not usually appropriate. A complete sentence must have a subject (someone or something doing something in the sentence), and a full verb (showing an action or a state of being). Most sentences also have an object: something that the verb is being done to. For example:
I (subject) love (verb) pancakes (object).

Sometimes a sentence can seem to have a subject and verb but not really have one. For example:
Running for the bus.

This sentence might look as though the bus is the subject of the sentence, and running is the verb. The problem is that running isnt a complete verbit needs another bit of verb to make it completeam running or was running. Also, its not the bus thats running. In fact, the person doing the running isnt in the sentence at all. That means that this fragment doesnt have a subject. Getting a grip on exactly why all this is so takes a fairly thorough understanding of grammar. I recommend you gain this,

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but in the meantime there are a few practical strategies you can apply to a piece of writing. Beware of sentences that start with an ing word. Check that they are not sentence fragments. If they are, there are two ways to fix them: 1. Get a subject into the sentence and complete the verb:
He was running for the bus.

2. Join this sentence fragment onto another complete sentence that gives it a subject and contains a full verb.
Running for the bus, he tripped over.

Run-on sentences
You might meet these under the name of comma splices or fused sentences. What these names mean is that several complete sentences have been stuck together without any properly certified joining devices. Imaginative writing might be able to get away with run-on sentences, especially in dialogue. On the whole, though, youd be safer to avoid them. Heres an example:
I love writing essays, it makes me feel good.

There are two complete sentences here, each with a subject and a whole verb. Sentence number 1 is : I (subject) love (verb) writing essays. Sentence number 2 is: It (subject) makes (verb) me feel good. In English youre not supposed to just stick two sentences together without the proper glue between them. Why not? Well, lets just say thats the way it is, like genders in French. When youre editing your writing, be on the lookout for long sentences with several parts. If each individual part could stand on its own, and youve just stuck them together with a comma, youve

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got to do something. There are two main ways of fixing run-on sentences: 1. Make two separate sentences by putting a full stop where you had a comma.
I love writing essays. It makes me feel good.

2. Join the complete sentences with a licensed joining word (or conjunction). These are words such as and, but, because, however and so on.
I love writing essays and it makes me feel good.

Or:
I love writing essays because it makes me feel good.

Subjectverb agreement
If you remember our discussion of complete sentences, you might have noticed that the subject and the verb agreed. In fact, one of the markers of a subject is that it controls the verbor rather, the form that the verb will take.
I (subject) love (verb) you love he loves she loves we love they love

You can see that some of these have an s on the end and some dont. Whether you add one or not depends on which subject youre using. Some verbs are even trickier, using a completely different word with different subjects:
I am you are he is she is

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we are you are they are

And some are very simple. Most past-tense verbs dont change at all:
I lived you lived he lived she lived we lived you lived they lived

For those whose first language is English, subjectverb agreement is usually instinctiveit just sounds right (although even native speakers can get it wrong, too). If English isnt your first language, its something that has to be checked carefully. You might, possibly, use deliberate non-agreement of subject and verb in imaginative writingin dialogue, for example. However, as with all these grammatical errors, its probably safest to avoid them for school and university writing jobs. If you do use them, you need to be able to justify them in terms of the overall meaning of the piece.

Changes of tense or person


Its easy to start a piece of writing in the past tense but find somewhere along the line that youve slid into the present tense or the other way round. Its also easy to start using he but somewhere along the line start talking about I instead. This is disorienting for a reader.

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There are times with imaginative writing where you might deliberately change tense. (For example, switching to the present tense can make an incident more dramatic.) The important thing is to do it on purpose, for a reason that you can justify.

Dangling modifiers
Sound weird, and dangling modifiers sound weird in writing, too. This is when youve got a sentence with several parts to it, and one of the parts modifies another part but its in the wrong place. The modifying bit dangles in space, attaching itself, in desperation, to anything nearby. For example:
Enjoying a meal of worms, Sylvester watched the birds.

Enjoying a meal of worms belongs with the birdsit tells you about them, or modifies them. However, because of the order of the sentence, the modifier has come unstuck from the birds, and seems to be attached to poor old Sylvester. Dangling modifiers usually sound ridiculous. The reader may laughbut at the writer, not the story. Dangling modifiers can usually be fixed by rearranging the sentence so that the modifier is right next to the thing its modifying:
Sylvester watched the birds enjoying a meal of worms.

However, if you have a very snarled-up sentence, full of dangling bits everywhere, its usually easier to take it apart and make it into two separate sentences.

Commas
A commas basic purpose in life is to indicate to the reader that there should be a slight pause in the sentence. Sometimes commas separate items in a list. The last two items of a list should already be separated by the word and, so you dont need a comma there.
I took bread, milk, eggs and cheese.

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Commas are handy to set off a little side-thought in a sentence the same way a pair of brackets (parentheses) would. (If you want to get technical, these are called parenthetical commas.) In this case you need to use a pair of them, on either side of the thoughtjust as youd use a pair of brackets:
My friend Sandy, who was a high-jump champion, never forgot my birthday.

Or:
My friend Chris, however, never remembered anything.

The danger zone with commas is when youve got two complete sentences (see run-on sentences above), and you join them together with nothing more substantial than a comma. Its like using sticky-tape to mend the fence. Something more substantial is a semicolon (;). This is discussed more below.

Apostrophes
These are those little misplaced commas that occur in the middle of some words, such theyre or its. Theres a lot of confusion about apostrophes. Theyve got two main uses:

7 Theyre used to indicate that something has been taken out


of a wordfor example, the apostrophe in theyre indicates that this is a shortening (or contraction) of they are. The apostrophe tells the reader that the letter a has been dropped. If it wasnt there, the word would look like some weird Olde Englishe word: theyre.

7 Theyre also used to show ownershipfor example, the


girls hat. In this case, the job that the apostrophe does is to tell the reader that the hat is owned by someonethat is, the girl.

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In this second case, the apostrophe signals a difference between girls (indicating that the girl owns something) and girls (indicating more than one girl). Often, we dont really need this signalits usually pretty clear from the context which one is meant, and in spoken English there is no difference. However, the apostrophe becomes useful when there is more than one owner. When there is more than one owner, we put the apostrophe after the s.
The girls dog bit me.

This is telling us that more than one girl owns the dog (probably sisters, down the street, in the yellow house, with that rooster that crows first thing in the morning). So, the general rule about apostrophes is this: if it shows that a letter has been taken out or if it shows ownership, use an apostrophe. If it doesnt show one of these things, dont use it. So far so good. But the problem is the exception to this rule: the word its. In the case of its the rules overlap. As a shortened form of it is, it ought to have an apostrophe to show that a letter has been removed. That would make it its. But if it owns something, it should also have an apostrophe. That would make it its in that case, too. This overlap of meanings has been solved by everyone agreeing on this solution: when the apostrophe is used, it means it is. When the apostrophe is not used, it means ownership. For example:
Its a fine day today. (short for it is) The dog bit its tail. (showing ownership)

In practical terms: resist the temptation to insert an apostrophe in any old word ending in s. If the s is there just to make the word plural, it doesnt need an apostrophe. If its there to indicate ownership go right ahead (but check that theres not more than one owner; then the apostrophe goes after the s). Look carefully at every use of its or its. If its short for it is, use the apostrophe. Otherwise, dont.

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Colons and semicolons


A colon is : and a semicolon is ;. A semicolon is a legitimate joining device for two complete sentences, and therefore a cure for a run-on sentence. The colon has several common uses. It can be used to introduce a list:
As she ran out of the house she grabbed all her things: her hat, her bag, her glasses and her keys.

Or it can be used to introduce an important or dramatic word:


All my attention was focused on one object: the door.

A colon is usually the right way to introduce a quotation:


Buddha said: This too shall pass.

Punctuation with inverted commas and parentheses


You use inverted commasquote marks with dialogue. Parentheses (commonly called brackets) are often handy, too, when you want to add a little bit extra to the main point and tack it onto the sentence. The question is, where does the punctuation goinside the inverted commas or parentheses, or outside them? Generally, the rule is that the punctuation goes inside the inverted commas or the parentheses, if theres a complete thought inside them. For example:
Hey Bill! he shouted. He sat down (on a chair with no seat!) and fell straight on the floor.

However, if the thought is completed outside the inverted commas or brackets, then the punctation should be outside them, too. For example:
I bought some bread (the grainy kind), some olives and some cheese.

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Paragraphs
The basic rule for paragraphs is that every new idea or subject should have a new paragraph. This is not always as simple as it sounds because ideas tend to flow into each other. Follow the basic rule and when you feel your writing is taking a breath, or the idea is turning a corner, give it a new paragraph. In any case, dont let your paragraphs get too long. A new paragraph gives your reader a chance to take a breath. As a very rough rule of thumb, if a paragraph is more than about eight or ten lines long (typed), try to find a place to cut into it and make it into two paragraphs. It will lighten the look of your writing and make it easier on your readers.

Pronoun reference and agreement


A pronoun is a word that stands in the place of a noun. Without pronouns, writing would get very repetitive (for example, you would have to use a characters name every time you mentioned them, instead of the he or she). What can happen with pronouns when youre writing, though, is that the link between the noun and the pronoun can get broken, and then the reader isnt clear what the pronoun is referring to. For example, the sentence might use a pronoun that doesnt match the original noun:
When a dog sees food, they are pleased.

The noun is singular (only one dog) but the pronoun is plural (they). This problem often arises in English because of the need to avoid gender-specific languageEnglish doesnt have a singular pronoun that includes both males and femaleswe only have he or she, so people now sometimes use they.
When a student gets a good mark, they are pleased.

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This is becoming accepted, but if you feel uncomfortable about it there are two solutions: 1. You can keep the singular noun and use both singular pronouns:
When a student gets a good mark, he or she is pleased.

2. Or, less cumbersomely, you can make the noun a plural so that you can keep the plural pronoun:
When students get good marks, they are pleased.

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Ten-minute exam kit


Under stressin an exam or with a deadline loomingits easy to panic about writing and forget the many details in a how-to-write book. So here is a no-frills summary of each step. When the pressure is on, you can remind yourself quickly what to do.

Step One: Getting ideas


1. Underline 7 the task word (or phrase) in your writing assignment (the
one telling you what kind of piece to write);

7 the limiting word (or phrase) in your writing assignment


(the one telling you what kind of focus is required).

2. List 7 Write down anything you can think of about the subject
of the assignment.

7 This should include any thoughts about the subject that


pop into your head, plus any dates and names youve crammed.

7 Just a word or two will be enough for each thoughtuse


a new line for each.

7 Aim for a minimum of ten items on your list before you


stop and read them over.

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Step Two: Choosing


Look at your list from Step One. Think about the purpose of your piece and test your ideas against it.

1. Whats the purpose of this piece of writing?


Is it:

7 to entertain? 7 to persuade? 7 to inform? 2. Test each idea from Step One


If your purpose is to entertain, ask:

7 Can I use this to make the reader feel something (the


feeling test)?

7 Can I use this as part of an ongoing storyline (the story


test)?

7 Can I use this to let the reader see whats happening (the
description test)? If your purpose is to persuade or inform, ask:

7 Can I use this to convey information to the reader (the


information test)?

7 Can I use this as an idea or theory about the topic (the


concept test)?

7 Can I use this as an example, or to support a point of


view (the evidence test)?

3. If an idea doesnt pass the tests for your purpose, cross it off the list

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Step Three: Outlining


Youve got a list of useful ideas from Step Two. Heres what to do next:

1. Sort your ideas into Beginning, Middle or End


Ask yourself:

7 Can I use this in the Beginning, as introductory scenesetting? (If you can, write B beside it.)

7 Can I use this in the Middle, as development and fillingout of the idea? (If you can, write M beside it.)

7 Can I use this in the End, as a winding up?


(If you can, write E beside it.)

2. Number the ideas in each of these categories


Ask yourself:

7 What is the most logical (or most interesting) order for all
the Bs? For all the Ms? For all the Es? Give them numbers: B1, B2, etc.

3. Add to your outline if there are gaps in it


Ask yourself:

7 Is there a gap in the logical sequence of information or


ideas?

7 Is there a gap in the balance of the piece? (Should I have


arguments for as well as against, or is there too much setting and not enough incident?)

7 Is there a gap at the Beginning or the End? (Write a onesentence summary.) Give the new ideas a tag (for example, B1a, B1b) to show where they should be inserted into the outline.

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Step Four: Drafting


Youve got a list of all the ideas youre going to use, with tags to tell you what order they should go in. Now, decide on a style and write each idea out.

1. Style depends on what your piece is aiming to do and who its being written for
Ask yourself:

7 Would a formal style suit my purpose and audience best? 7 Would a casual style suit my purpose and audience best? 2. Write out each numbered item from Step Three in sentences
Some will only need one sentence, while others will expand into several. Your summary card will be the basis for your thesis sentence. As a rule of thumb, each item in the Middle will be a new paragraph. Dont get bogged down making one bit perfectits better to sketch in all your ideas, no matter how badly, than to have just one or two beautiful paragraphs and then nothing else. You now have a first draft. If youve left yourself a few minutes to spare, you can fix up some of the rough parts of this draft.

210

OT H E R U S E F U L S T U F F

Step Five: Revising


Youve got a first draft and a few minutes to fix the worst of its faults. Heres what you do now: Cut, Add and Move (CAM).

1. Should I cut anything? 7 Is this bit relevant to the assignment? 7 Have I said the same thing twice? 7 (For imaginative writing) is this bit preventing the story being
interesting?

2. Should I add anything? 7 Have I shown why each idea is relevant to the assignment? 7 Have I assumed my reader knows something I havent told
them?

7 Have I left out something that would help the piece achieve
its purpose (evidence, vivid details)?

7 Could I smooth the joins between the ideas by adding


connecting phrases?

3. Should I move anything? 7 Is there a feeling of jumping backwards and forwards? 7 Is this a good idea in itself, but doesnt seem to relate to the
ideas around it? Now your piece should flow smoothly, with no gaps, bulges or tangles. If youve got time for Step Six, you can work on the grammar, spelling and presentation.

TEN-MINUTE EXAM KIT

211

Step Six: Editing


Youve got a piece with everything in it, and its all in the right order. If youve got a few minutes left, heres how to make it look its best: Check the style, the grammar and spelling.

1. Is the style okay? 7 Are the word choices and sentence structures appropriate for
the purpose of the piece?

7 Are they appropriate for the intended reader? 7 Can I smooth the joins between sentences with connecting
words or phrases?

7 Are some sentences clumsy or over-complicated? 2. Is the grammar okay? 7 Is this a complete sentence? (Does it have a subject and a
full verb?)

7 Is this really two sentences stuck together with only a


comma?

7 Have I changed tense without meaning to? 3. Is the presentation okay? 7 Have I spelled the name of this real person or country or
chemical correctly?

7 Have I spelled the characters or authors names correctly? 7 Have I spelled technical or special words correctly?
Congratulations. You can be confident that youve shown what you know about the subject, and that youve presented it in the best way.

Bibliography
Crew, Gary and Libby Hathorn, Dear Venny, Dear Saffron, Lothian Fiction, Melbourne, 1999 Frost, Robert, Mending Wall in The Norton Anthology of Poetry, edited by M. Ferguson, M.J. Salter and J. Stallworthy, 4th edition, W.B. Norton & Company, 1996 Macquarie Dictionary, 1st edition, The Macquarie Library, Macquarie University, 1981 Marchetta, Melina, Looking for Alibrandi, Puffin Books, Ringwood, Victoria, 1992 Marsden, John, Tomorrow, When the War Began, Pan Australia, Sydney, 1995 Nimon, Maureen and John Foster, The Adolescent Novel: Australian Perspectives, Centre for Information Studies, Wagga Wagga, NSW, 1997 Townsend, Sue, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 1334, Methuen, London, 1980 Twain, Mark, Huckleberry Finn, Collins, London, 1953 Wyndham, John, The Day of the Triffids, Penguin, London, 1961

Acknowledgements
A big thank you, first of all, to all the teachers of writing I was lucky enough to encounter early on. Mrs Linney at North Sydney Demonstration School and Mary Armstrong at Cremorne Girls High School were the first in a long line of imaginative teachers of writing. They taught me that writing isnt magic: up to a point, its something you can learn how to do, and the learning can be fun. Apart from my teachers, my students have taught me most about writing. Thank you, all those Ive had the pleasure and privilege of working with over the last fifteen years of writing classes. A number of high school teachers were kind enough to read this book at draft stage and make invaluable comments and suggestions, especially Debra Kelliher, who gave generously of her time, and whose astute, insightful comments saved me from many follies and gave me new ideas. Many thanks also to Lyn Power, Marcia Shepherd, Su Lengker and Marie Cullen, who read the book in draft form, and to Kerry Edmeades, Mal Garrett, Garry Collins, Cathy Sly, Beverly Hayes and Eva Gold, who responded constructively to the original idea. Thank you also to those involved in English teachers conferences in several states, who participated so generously during the workshops at which I gave the Six Step process its trial run. Great thanks go to John Marsden for his kindness in letting me use his book Tomorrow, When the War Began as the subject for my essay writing examples. I tried out this book on two young writers who were in a position to be quite frank with me: a special thank you, Tom and Alice Petty, for being the guinea pigs.

Index
acknowledgements 30, 184 active voice 1089 apostrophes 171, 2012 argument 5, 122, 153, 154, 1945 assignments 23 essay 3, 4, 6 imaginative 3, 4, 6 authority, of writer 109, 122 automatic writing 27 background 86, 141, 154 beginnings 70, 71, 191 essays 867, 124 imaginative writing 72, 73, 78 bibliography 184 brackets see parentheses brainstorming 11, 29 characters 72, 78, 141 climax 85, 141 cluster diagrams 11, 14, 18, 28, 34 colons 171, 203 comma splice see run-on sentences commas 171, 181, 2012 parenthetical 201 compare/contrast 5, 89 complication 72, 79 computer grammar checkers 109, 172 concept 57, 94 concept test 5764 conclusion 87, 88, 154 conjunctions 198 consistency 169, 173 contraction 203 creative writing see imaginative writing dangling modifiers 171, 200 definition 87 description test 505 detail 15, 141 development, of idea 123 dialogue 141, 171, 197, 199, 203 discussion 89, 1945 draft, first 10511 essays 12230 imaginative writing 11219 using the outline 11519, 123, 12530 draft, second essays 15961 imaginative writing 1469 editing 137, 1678 essays 17885 imaginative writing 16977 ends 70, 71, 1923 essays 87, 88, 124 imaginative writing 73, 79, 114, 139 entertaining see writing essays 3, 45, 6, 57 choosing ideas 5763 editing 17885 endings 124 first draft using the outline 12530 getting ideas 2838 one-pronged 889 outlining 8697 revising 15361 second draft 15961 style 122, 125, 131, 17885 two-pronged 8990, 154 evidence 57 evidence test 5763, 65 exam kit 20813 examples 57, 65 exposition 1945

INDEX

215

feeling test 505 first draft see draft, first first person voice 108, 109, 115 flashback 74 flow 113, 1234, 154 flowchart see outline free association 11 freewriting 11, 16, 21, 32, 38 fused sentences see run-on sentences gender-specific language 2045 GOS factor 106, 113, 115, 1234, 125, 139 grammar 167, 168, 1702, 179 computer checks 109, 172 Great Final Sentence (GFS) 124, 139 Great Opening Sentence (GOS) see GOS factor hidden agendas 3 historical account 1945 ideas, how to choose 49 essays 5763 imaginative writing 504 ideas, how to get 1113, 15, 1920 essays 2838 imaginative writing 1421 imaginative writing 12, 6, 49, 197 choosing ideas 504 editing 16977 endings 73, 114 first draft using the outline 11219 getting ideas 1421 outlining 7282 revising 1409 second draft 1469 imperative voice 108 independent investigation see research index cards, for outlining 6970, 74, 7682, 917 information 4, 57, 154 sources 29 information test 5764 informing see writing inspiration 12 interest 113 introduction 867, 93, 154

inverted commas 171, 181, 203 investigation see research italics 184 key words 14, 123 language 168 gender-specific 2045 layout 1734, 183 legibility 174 limiting words 2, 3, 6 lists 11, 14, 17, 28, 33 map see outline margins 174 middles 70, 71, 1913 essays 87, 8890 imaginative writing 72, 79 narrative 1945 narrator 1089 note-taking 301 notebook, keeping one 16 object 110, 196 organisation see sequence; structure orientation 72 outline 69, 74, 82, 120 outlining 6971 essays 8697 imaginative writing 7282 using index cards 6970, 74, 7682, 917 overview 86 overworking 142, 155 padding 153 paragraphs 1223, 172, 181, 204 elements 123, 131 parentheses 203 parenthetical commas 201 passive voice 109, 172 past tense 201 person, change of 171, 199 see also voice persuading see writing plagiarism 184 plan see outline

216

INDEX

planning, premature 1213 points of view 45, 87 present tense 180, 200 presentation 168, 1734 primary sources 29 problem-solving 1379, 152, 168 procedural recount 1945 pronouns 2045 punctuation 2003 purpose 1067, 11011 quote marks see inverted commas quotes 36, 37, 171, 184 read-through 168 recounts 1945 redrafting 105, 142 reports 1945 research 11, 1516, 1920, 29, 357 resolution 73, 79 reviews 1945 revising 1379, 155 essays 15361 imaginative writing 1409 run-on sentences 170, 172, 1978 second person voice 108 secondary sources 29 self-criticism 12, 113 semicolons 171, 203 sentence fragments 170, 172, 1967 sentence length 179 sentence structure 107, 1089, 110 sentences final 114, 139 opening 106, 1234, 139 run-on 170, 172, 1978 sequence 86, 8890, 154, 189 showing/telling 112, 140 six steps, of writing vii sound bite 113 spacing 1734 speedwriting see freewriting spell checker 173 spelling 113, 167, 173, 1823 stories 6, 50, 74, 91 endings 114 story test 505

structure 703, 95 style 10611, 115, 168 essays 122, 125, 131, 17885 formal 107, 122, 178 imaginative writing 112, 16970 informal 107, 115 subject 110, 196, 197 subject-verb agreement 170, 1989 summary 74, 81 supporting material 123 synonyms 1078 syntax see sentence structure task words 2, 3, 6 tense 171, 199200 theme 69, 74, 86, 98 thesaurus 111 thesis statement 86, 96 think-tanking 11 third person voice 108, 109 titles 174, 184 topic sentence 123 unconscious, the 12 universal narrator 1089 usage 1678 verbs 110, 196, 197, 1989 voice 107, 1089 passive 172 waffle 153 word choice 1078, 131, 178 writers 16, 105, 142, 168 as actors 109, 111 authority 109, 122 writers block 13, 106, 114, 124 writing 1, 88, 105, 190 on computer 138, 155, 174 order 701, 154, 190 purpose 1067, 11011 six steps vii to entertain 12, 4, 14, 49, 50, 112 to inform 1, 2, 57, 122 to persuade 1, 2, 6, 57, 122 types 12, 189, 1945 what you know 113, 120 see also essays; imaginative writing